The Stakes for November

Let's face it: this election season boils down to a few major players: two political parties, about four or five swing states and post-Citizens United SuperPAC donations. It's a horribly depressing thought, but it's reality.

I'd love to see more focus more on intriguing Libertarian and Green party platform ideas. It would shake up the stagnancy of the same tired, day after day discussions taking place on 24 hour cable networks and online media hubs. Along with newspapers and magazines owned by a few large, corporate controlled conglomerates, these hubs may not be the sole providers of political content in the nation, but they are the most conspicuous, and - let's face it - the ones with the most clout to control political narrative.

There are just a few stakes holding down the tent of this coming election. The main ones are:

* Independent swing votes.
* Which of the two major parties manages to sustain the political narrative from now until November.

That is the reality of the situation, and given that it's the reality, I'd like to tell you why the GOP is quite simply better at holding down these stakes.

First, controlling the vote:

Republicans have pushed through stricter voter ID laws in at least ten states. Actual voter fraud is quite rare, so the intent of these laws is clear: they're devised to disenfranchise lower income voters and voters more likely to vote Democratic. This is not a conspiracy. It is the intent of the law. Republicans have admitted as much.

Also, the Republican Governors Association has successfully smashed collective bargaining in several states, thereby disenfranchising unions. Unions have been, historically, the most unified, most consistent single force the Democratic party has on election day. However, this force is weakening. Union voters stood at 21% of the electorate in 2008, down five points from 2004. Now that they're further weakened by this push against collective bargaining, that number stands to fall even further. What's great for Republicans is that this whole anti-collective bargaining campaign has been sold as a strictly economic austerity measure to keep the states from going Bankrupt. Scott Walker and John Kasich (Governors of Wisconsin and Ohio, respectively) are now poised to wield even more influence now that Walker survived the recall attempt against him.

Second, sustaining political narratives:

Republicans are better at controlling the overall narrative because the GOP message machine is more organized, more efficient, more expensive, more expansive and more organized than its progressive equivalent. Conservative pundits are businessmen whose livelihood hinges on getting the message right and keeping it consistent, for the sake of shareholders and for the sake of a company's business reputation. Conservative talkers and pundits come straight out of that business world, where appearance is everything, and the art of the deal is the art of brevity and finely honed public relations. It's no surprise, then, why Conservatives pundits are usually (but not always) unflappable, calm and focused when on-air or giving interviews. Whether they're refuting allegations, spinning a narrative, or obfuscating claims by the other party, it's their bread and butter.

Progressive talkers, on the other hand, flounder when it comes to staying on message. They're often community organizers and professors. Their livelihood requires engaging with the community at the ground level, thereby producing a dialogue rife with ethical evolution and grey areas. As a result, Progressive talkers sound less sure of themselves. It's not because they are less sure, or less educated, but because they're communication style betrays a fundamental need for a deeper understanding of social and institutional problems. Conservatives pundits, by focusing and fine-tuning the edifice of their presentation, rather than plumbing the depths or trying to entertain nuance, simply capture the narrative (and the public's attention) in a more visceral way.

It's uncommon for Democrats or Progressives to maintain hold on a narrative for too long, before the savvy message experts in the GOP come along and deconstruct it. Time will tell if the narrative over Mitt Romney's finances and his responsibilities at Bain Capital will extend through to November, but based on what I've heard in the last day or so, this is unlikely. Republicans have already begun twisting the knob to an entirely different channel, and doing so more forcefully than ever.


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