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The “Rogues’ Gallery” Strategy

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Eight and a half years ago, I saw something that roused and frightened me like nothing before. A dark and destructive force had arisen on the political right, degrading everything in America it could touch.

Ever since that time, in 2004, I have worked to convey what I’d seen to my fellow citizens. For six years, I did this through writing on my own blog (www.NoneSoBlind.org) and elsewhere, and I continued the mission as the Democratic nominee for Congress in the most Republican district in Virginia.

Many of the ways of perceiving this destructiveness and dishonesty require knowledge and abstract thinking. Not everyone is equipped to evaluate whether climate change is a hoax, as the Republicans claim, or whether the Ryan budget’s numbers add up, or whether George W. Bush deliberately lied us into a war in Iraq. And the idea that the many particulars add up to a “destructive force” and a “sick and broken spirit” is more abstract still, more divorced from people’s immediate experience.

That’s why I’d like to propose that we, who see this darkness on the right, consider what might be called a “Rogues’ Gallery Strategy.”

There’s nothing that people are more equipped to “get” than other people. Reading the character and spirit of other people has been essential to human life since before we had “economies” or “politics” to worry about. Whom can I trust? Who really has good will? Whom should I love and whom should I despise?  Those questions tap into our most basic humanity, just as we’re born to be experts at recognizing faces.

That’s why the Bible communicates its message through stories about vivid individuals. That’s why there’s a huge market for celebrity news.

My idea is to reach average Americans by focusing on the moral and human qualities of some specific people who have been the most prominent faces, the most powerful agents, of the dark spirit that has taken over the right.  The deeper truth would be the nature of the spirit that, together, they express.

This group is quite extraordinary in the context of American history-in a disturbing and dangerous way. They include Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tom Delay, Antonin Scalia, the Koch Brothers, Rupert Murdoch.

When in American history have the major players behind any major American political party been so disgraceful, so ugly in moral and human terms, so lacking in integrity, so indifferent to the general good, so willing to manipulate the people who trust them, so willing to hurt those who most need help in order to serve those who already have the most, so hypocritical about the principles that they claim to care about, so fundamentally dishonest?

I believe the answer is: Never. American history is full of characters that are less than admirable, but I don’t believe there’s ever been a group like this at center stage of American politics. Am I right?

If people were able to “get” how morally and spiritually repulsive this group is, they could take the next step to understand — or at least intuit — what’s going on in the American political realm in our times.

But can the moral, human, and spiritual repulsiveness of this group be effectively conveyed to a non-trivial swath of the American public?  

The best approach may be to paint portraits of these “rogues” mostly by using factual statements. Show them, don’t tell them. Factual statements have power.  These factual statements should be of a kind that will be persuasive in moral terms to average Americans, irrespective of their attitudes and beliefs about the abstract political issues facing the nation.  

For example: the hypocrisy of Newt Gingrich in his public condemnations of President Clinton over the Lewinsky Affair while he himself was engaged in even more scandalous sexual conduct; the sadistic mocking, by George W. Bush, of the woman (Karla Faye Tucker) whom he had allowed to be executed; Justice Scalia’s pattern of using his supposed principles only when they help the interests he’s serving, while readily putting them aside when they’d get in the way of that agenda.

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With a small handful of such brush strokes for each of these Rogues, would it be possible to convey the ugly truth?

That leads, finally, to the question of how a set of Rogues’ Gallery portraits might be effectively broadcast into the American political discourse. Could it be accomplished at op/ed length (800 words)? Would a longer treatment be required?

I would appreciate help in addressing such questions, and in assembling the kinds of factual statements about the major figures of the right wing that would be persuasive to our fellow citizens, irrespective of their attitudes and beliefs about the abstract political issues facing the nation.

Perhaps by a pooling of efforts, we as a political community can accomplish something here.

Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia’s 6th District.  He is the author of various books including Sowings and Reapings: The Cycling of Good and Evil in the Human System.  

  • …the utterly heinous Rand “Aqua Buddha” Paul and the very thirsty (but utterly vapid) Marco Rubio finish 1-2 in the CPAC Freak Show and Straw Poll! LOL

  • totallynext

    Is not a catchy phrase…I prefer something like this….

    “greedy lying bastards”. A littleMore to the point

    http://greedylyingbastards.com/