The Power of Negative Branding: Carville Gets It on Webb

Yesterday, Mudcat Saunders' partner and Webb campaign consultant Steve Jarding wrote:

George Allen and his campaign hit men this week chose to again attack Jim Webb and his military experiences, this time by taking passages from Webb's novels to try to suggest that the explicit war time experiences Webb writes about are demeaning and repugnant.

I like the fighting instinct but I think Jarding and Saunders miss the negative branding opportunity. James Carville does not:

[B]ook burning is not the greatest tactic in American politics in 2006. And I think it's going to draw attention to the fact that Webb is one of the most decorated veterans of the Vietnam War, and Allen sat it out.

. . . Webb has got some pretty good answers. I'm saying to the Webb people, get out in front of this. Go take every interview you can. Challenge Allen to debate your record. Challenge to debate whether or not literature should be censored. Say: You know what? When I do vote on a Supreme Court justice, I'm going vote on somebody that allows people to write about the horrors of war, without the fear of -- of censorship.

Too often Democrats, like say Harold Ford, believe that out-bigoting and/or out-extreming their GOP counterparts is a road to victory. I think that is a fool's errand. Besides being morally reprehensible.

This is really a variant on the DLC mantra about "values voters." It has been a long time since then, but right after the 2004 election, the DLC was out and about attacking daily kos and MoveOn and "decadent Leftists" generally and arguing forcefully that the Democratic Party needed to emulate the GOP on national security and "values."

Such a strategy is and was problematic for me. Not just for what it says Dems should compromise on - equal rights, church/state separation, truth and honesty and wisdom on national security (Harold Ford is very much a DLC experiment) - it is also troubling because I believe it will not work.

What Democrats should be doing is taking opportunities to negatively brand the Republican Party as the extremist, anti-science, anti-knowledge, anti-facts Party it is. It is heartening to me to see that James Carville is getting it now.

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    Carville? (none / 0) (#1)
    by jaf on Sat Oct 28, 2006 at 01:02:05 PM EST
    Does anyone actually give any credence to Carville at this point?

    Sigh (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Oct 28, 2006 at 01:26:21 PM EST

    Seriously, can you engage an idea without thinking of it as an endorsement of who said it?

    "negative branding".... (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Sat Oct 28, 2006 at 03:43:11 PM EST
    let us all refer to the republican party as the new "know nothing" party. this would perfectly encapsulate their current positions, on pretty much everything.

    they want you to know nothing factual, because you would then realize how truly vacant they've become as a political entity. instead of addressing legitimate issues, in legitimate debate, they take the rove approach of personally attacking anyone who questions what they're doing.

    so, what do you think guys?

    Re: so, what do you think guys? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Edger on Sat Oct 28, 2006 at 07:21:35 PM EST
    Speaking of The Power of Negative Branding, and of how truly vacant the "know nothing" party has become as a political entity... Dan Froomkin was in finer form that I've seen in awhile yesterday in his 'White House Briefing'.

    It's beginning to look like they've lost their ace in the hole. They don't even know how to lie anymore:

    Most Ridiculous Moment?
    Friday, October 27, 2006; 1:02 PM

    A Linguistic Trap

    Linguistics professor George Lakoff writes in a New York Times op-ed: "The first rule of using negatives is that negating a frame activates the frame. If you tell someone not to think of an elephant, he'll think of an elephant. When Richard Nixon said, 'I am not a crook' during Watergate, the nation thought of him as a crook.

    "'Listen, we've never been stay the course, George,' President Bush told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News a day earlier. Saying that just reminds us of all the times he said 'stay the course.' . . .

    "'Stay the course' was for years a trap for those who disagreed with the president's policies in Iraq. To disagree was weak and immoral. It meant abandoning the fight against evil. But now the president himself is caught in that trap. To keep staying the course, given obvious reality, is to get deeper into disaster in Iraq, while not staying the course is to abandon one's moral authority as a conservative. Either way, the president loses."

    Torture Watch

    As first noted in my Wednesday column and Live Online , Vice President Cheney made a startling acknowledgment about torture in a Tuesday radio interview with conservative talk-show host Scott Hennen.

    "Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?' Hennen asked.

    "Well, it's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said.

    Well, "Dick"... you've got a point. What to do with you guys is a no-brainer for most of the country as well.


    Reality no longer matters (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Sat Oct 28, 2006 at 08:12:02 PM EST
    But there is still time for an 'October' surprise. It might have to wait till early November though, if they think they can pull it off:

    Stealing the midterm elections and the power of myth

    Karl Rove is not Harry Houdini. He can't change the fact that the Democrats could take up to 40 seats in the House and that the Republicans may lose the Senate as well. He can't change the national polling-data which favors the Democrats by a considerable margin, or the exit polling which is predicted to show substantial Democratic gains, too. And, there's nothing Rove can do to stop the perception that the elections are now expected to be a Democratic landslide extending from sea to shining sea. The only thing that Rove can do to win the midterms is to purge the voting roles in key states and crank up the voting machines to "full-tilt."

    But even that won't be enough this time.

    The problem with that strategy is that it will only increase the suspicion that the elections have been rigged. Given the current projections, any massive voter tampering is likely to trigger a public outcry that will inevitably result in an investigation. That's not what Rove or anyone else on the Bush team wants.

    So what is Rove supposed to do?

    One thing is certain; he won't play by the rules. He'll have to fabricate a story which will explain why at the very last minute, the majority of Americans switched their vote to Republican and changed the outcome of the election.
    There are only two weapons in the imperial tool chest; force and deception. I expect that the anticipated Democratic landslide will be preempted by massive voter fraud accompanied by some type of "searing event"; that way the fantastical outcome of a GOP victory can be neatly folded into a larger and all-pervasive "myth."

    As we have been reminded many times: Reality no longer matters; only the perception of reality. The power of myth reigns supreme.

    Happy balloting!

    Not being surprised might turn out to be the only real surprise...

    MORE Reality no longer matters (none / 0) (#6)
    by Edger on Sat Oct 28, 2006 at 08:43:13 PM EST
    Electronic voting machines "hack" off Democrat Jim Webb's name from November ballot
    As being reported by the AP wire service, Jim Webb, Democratic challenger for U.S. Senator in Virginia to Republican incumbent, George "Macaca" Allen, has had his (Webb's) last name chopped off or "hacked" off by electronic voting touch-screen machines.

    What is being called a "glitch" by Hart InterCivic spokespersons, three cities in Virginia -- Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville -- will not properly display Jim Webb's name on the November ballot summary screen. Voters will only see 'James H. "Jim"' on the ballot, instead of James H. "Jim" Webb.