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Skip to comments.FreeRepublic Network Conference Transcript
Posted on 08/25/2002 3:06:29 PM PDT by strela
Updated on 25 August 2002
The purpose of this segment was how to more successfully present our issues to voters and to the media -- whatever the issue might be.
Political technology consists of:
- Organization (of Time, Talent, and Treasure)
Matt Lewis provided some insight on how communication works depending on the type of campaign you have selected to prosecute. He stated that to run a volunteer campaign, ringing doorbells, etc. takes almost the same amount of time as that you would use to hire a consultant and pay for TV advertisements (only one day a week). Work smarter, not harder.
You owe it to your philosophy to study how to win. Political technology is political success.
There is no cookie-cutter approach to politics that works every time. However, there are two things that all politicians respond to:
- Pleasure. Most people who contact their representatives do so to complain, and the occasional and rare positive call from a constituent tends to raise eyebrows and get one's name and/or cause remembered. Politicians want to look "good" (whatever your definition of "good" might be).
- Pain. Politicians respond to complaints - its in their nature. Each complaint represents a potential vote in the next election winging its way over to their adversary.
"Since I have God and the Truth on my side, that's all it takes to win."
Sir Galahad might have been a noble knight and his adventures make for good reading, but his is a lousy political mindset. It takes hard work and brains to win hearts and minds, and you can't do it standing on a marble pedestal or speaking ex cathedra.
Being "dead right" (losing the election but keeping moral purity) is not a goal to aspire to. Being in a political winning position to effect your desired change in policy is.
Out of 100 percent of people in a district, 64 percent are eligible to vote; 40 percent are registered to vote; and 24 percent actually show up to vote.
People who vote every four years tend to always vote only every four years. People who always vote are the ones you want to send literature at the very end of the campaign.
An average of 24 percent of registered voters actually show up to vote on Election Day. This is a variable and can change depending on local "hot-button" issues or lack of same.
On average, 10 percent of registered Democrats and 9 percent of registered Republicans are the hard core of the respective parties. If someone ran a yellow dog and slapped a "D" or "R" sandwich board on its side, they'd be the ones casting votes for it.
To use limited resources most efficiently, do not expend a lot of energy, time, and money trying to persuade yellow-dogs (whether in your party or the other party). While it is important to remember your base and govern accordingly (if you win, but you've got to win in order to govern), scarce resources are better served trying to persuade the other 90/91 percent.
Political technology is philosophically and value-neutral.
Many successful tactics and/or strategies are value-neutral, meaning that either side can use them without lessening the values they espouse. Even when they are NOT value-neutral and we would not use them, we need to study them in order to plan an effective countermeasure.
No one at the conference recommended that conservatives should use ALL of the tactics of the left. However, there are some tactics and strategies used by our opponents that are suitable for use by conservatives. Those tactics are outlined in this section.
Do not fall into the trap of not using the tactics successfully used by the enemy solely because they ARE the tactics of the enemy. Within the confines and limitations of your conscience, and as long as it does not violate your core beliefs, the tactics we use should be designed to help us win.
The average American is nowhere near as well-informed as we activists and political junkies. You might not have much time to get your message out, and the left-leaning media can and will misrepresent your message if it is overly long. That is why media releases are short and concise.
Matt Lewis's point was that in today's soundbite society, you have to frame your message of the moment in a positive manner that the lowest common denominator can understand and see tangible benefits. It's unfortunate and even sad, but that's the state of 21st Century American mentality.
We should utilize some of the liberals playbook in getting our issues/messages out to the public. Being media, political, and cultural savvy is not comprising out principles. We don't "repeat the lie", we "repeat the truth".
Frame your message of the moment in a positive manner that the lowest common denominator can understand and see tangible benefits.
Lewis used the analogy of the success of Bill Clinton. For better or worse, he explained that Clinton, for all his personal shortcomings, is a brilliant politician. While his morals and policies are anathema to conservatives, his ability to work in politics shouldnt be ignored and should be used to learn from. Clinton was a master at always staying on message, no matter what question was thrown at him.
As much as we hate James Carville and Paul Begala, they do have the ability to use these same effective tactics, and they worked for them. The point is that conservatives must combine similar, proven tactics with our logic and morality in our attempts to get our candidates elected and to win. And, winning is good.
If you come up with a message and your opponent sues you, you've got a good message. People think in pictures.
Lewis suggested we read Bad Boy--The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater.
Credibility--if you don't have it, nothing else matters.
Lewis also spoke about having the right person to deliver the right message. As an example, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to have a man debate a woman about abortion. Know your limitations. If you're that man and you're asked to debate a woman about abortion, politely decline, and suggest a woman in your organization would probably be happy to debate.
Whatever team is on the offense the longest, wins (i.e., think of Carville and Begala, they were ALWAYS on the offense).
And, before you think that reading this entire document will automatically make you an effective politician or enable you to effectively deal with politicians, remember this Lee Atwater quote: "You can't teach a kid to ride a bike at a workshop."
A persons own name is the most important thing to them, and their attention span increases dramatically toward you when you use it. Remembering peoples names is vital.
If you chair a political function, it is important to have name tags for all attendees. Always write peoples names on their name tags in upper and lower case; e.g.: Joseph Blow. Do not use all caps; e.g.: JOSEPH BLOW. The reason for this is that human beings read and retain information more efficiently if it is in mixed case, and tend to gloss over information written in all upper case or consider it shouting. The Coca Cola company uses this to list the ingredients on their products (information they dont necessarily want you to read or retain).
Lewis cautioned us that for all your training and all your knowledge of the proper way to run a campaign, mistakes will still sometimes creep in. He related a humorous story about a course he conducted with the Christian Coalition. He remembered a lady who was practicing her sound bites and set answers she was supposed to repeat when asked controversial questions. She was asked by one of the instructors about something controversial. Losing her cool, she inadvertently blurted out Romans 34:10! or something similar in a loud voice. Lewis point was that, even with a lot of training, it's easy to fall back on old habits.
The realities of Internet activism are:
- Action (changing public officials when necessary).
Email is not an effective way to lobby at the Congressional level. Phone calls, faxes, and dead-tree letters are much more effective. However, even letters have a limited effectiveness due to the long amount of time it takes to get a paper letter through the mail system. If you have a hot-button issue you want to communicate, use a fax or phone call.
On the local and state level, email can and should be used, as politicians still read them at this level.
In your communications, do not use acronyms (except commonly-recognized ones such as FBI, CIA, etc.) Keep your communications simple and straightforward.
Bias in the media isn't what they write, it's what they write about.
The best candidate does not win. The best campaign wins.
For reporters, make sure you give them access to you. They have deadlines. Be candid with reporters, don't add a spin. Get to know the reporters in your beat.
Getting "hard and nasty" might not be the best course of action to get your message through the media filter. Often times the media is looking for "free dirt" from conservative activists to write about (or photograph.) Better to use clever humor and charm to get the reporter interested in talking to you and then slip in your hard-hitting "sound bites" when they are captivated by finding an intelligent and interesting person to listen to.
Reporters want compelling stories regardless of idealogy (except for built-in bias that can be maneuvered around.) But above all else remember that EVERYTHING IS ON THE RECORD regardless of how personable and candid the interview appears to be. Let the reporter think they are getting an unprepared stream of consciousness from you. But in reality, make sure you have thought out a good reply for every topic associated with the issue that you are FReeping.
If you are prepared, you will be more confident and appear less nervous and distracted. Use the basic prepared responses as the structure for the interview and spice it with some improvisation to tailor it to the exact questions being asked and to offer tangible real-time examples that the reporter can use to pretend that they are documenting the event, rather than going through the motions.
Muth suggested we study Ronald Reagan's speeches to learn how to be conservative and positive (most conservatives are conservative and negative).
Lastly, "There is nothing wrong with a benevolent dictator in a dictatorship."
Chuck Muth said something about the Founding Fathers often having violent disagreements, despite the common belief that they were always such good friends. Jim Robinson added something to the effect that Alexander Hamilton probably would have been BANNED, if they had had a forum like this one then.
One attendee brought up the example of Billy Graham's wife Ruth, who once said that if two people agree with each other about everything, ONE of them is unnecessary.
We need to remember that the most important vote that they take in the Senate each term is the FIRST vote - the one that establishes which is the MAJORITY party, and who shall be the committee chairman. Tom Daschle has been extraordinarily effective at blocking the conservative agenda from his position as Majority Leader, and this CANNOT continue.
While we ALL might like to see fire-breathing "true believers" in public office, we may need to settle for squishy RINOs - at times - who will at least vote for the party ONE TIME - at the beginning of the term, until we can find a way to elect more conservative candidates.
One of the enemys tactics that Mr. Muth recommended conservatives learn to recognize is changing the subject.
Don't worry; I'm not turning into a math geek. But, there is an equation that fits this topic:
M = EC3
Message equals emotion times contrast, connection, credibility
Moral outrage is the number one motivating factor in politics.
A Few Tips:
- Use emotion to help develop your message.
- People think in pictures - use everyday examples.
- Tailor your message to your audience.
Don't answer the question you're asked - answer the question you want to answer.
In politics, perception is reality. That is why it pays to develop good public speaking habits.
55 percent of public speaking is visual (appearance).
38 percent of public speaking is vocal (good speaking habits, no fillers).
An incredible 7 percent of public speaking is content (your message).
We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions, while audiences judge us by results.
It was suggested that we study Ronald Reagan's speeches to learn how to be conservative and positive (most conservatives are conservative and negative).
Some Public Speaking "Commandments"
- Frame the debate.
- Know the difference between your immediate audience and your REAL audience, then tailor your message accordingly.
- Smile. Make eye contact.
- Don't say "Um." It is verbal static. People hate listening to static, and will do their best to tune it out.
- Don't point. It makes you look judgmental and severe.
- Target your specific message to your audience.
- Use repetition. Use repetition. Use repetition. Use repetition.
Did I mention "use repetition?"
"Reason" is at the very heart of why repetition is a successful tactic. On average, a person has to repeat a message 7 times before the average person understands it. And you can't start the clock on that 7 repetitions until your target hears it for the first time.
Let's assume that you're running for President and that there are potentially 100 million voters you would like to try to persuade to vote for you. If you deliver a speech even on a major network or a well-attended rally, we can safely assume that only a small percentage of that 100 million will be tuned in to hear it. You need to repeat that message, over and over again, for the message to register with more and more of your target audience, until you have covered a meaningful segment of the audience.
The discussion in this segment was primarily about public speaking and debates and spin. The specific topic was the 'credibility' of the spokesperson. Someone used the example of AnnaZ cleaning some male's clock at some 2nd Amendment debate in the recent past.
However, the subject of abortion in public speaking came up, and Mr. Muth addressed it. An example provided was when the left put up a woman to debate a conservative man about abortion. Muth pointed out that the man didn't have a chance in that debate, although some FReepers in the audience challenged that assertion.
The key point of why Mr. Muth brought up the abortion issue is that it is a divisive issue that needlessly divides people that otherwise would work together politically. And having your candidate get at least 1 more vote than her opponent is how we control policy and get conservative judges appointed.
Muth suggested that we produce a simple sound bite-like statement about our views on abortion, then remember and use it. This was because we will certainly be asked that question at some point, even if we were running for dogcatcher or some political job that had no policy-making duties related to abortion.
The point Mr. Muth tried to make was that when given the opportunity to address an audience larger than that reading your posts, do what will be the most effectively received by the audience. A man on TV railing against abortion is instant eye-glaze. It will win the cause approximately zero converts. (example: Alan Keyes. Brilliant oratory, but fodder for the choir.)
Mr. Muth did not say it was a hard and fast rule but he did say that for most folks, more credibility is imparted to a female speaker on abortion because if she had not "been there and done that," she could be.
Opinion: Absolutely nothing is more gripping, and honest, than a repentant post-abortive woman.
Being right, in the sense of being philosophically correct, is not sufficient to win. Political success is determined over time by the number and effectiveness of the activities on the given sides.
Some of the goals of this particular portion of the conference were:
- How do you ask for money?
- How do you make up a good finance committee?
- How can you chair more profitable fund-raising events?
Personal solicitation is the best way to raise money. All politics is personal (when it comes to fund-raising).
Compile and stick to a script in your fund-raising efforts:
1. Greeting. "Hello" is a good start ;)
2. Small talk. Personalize your sales pitch to the pitchee.
3. Sales pitch. Why are you going to win? Who is going to vote for your candidate? How will the donation you seek for your cause help your cause?
4. Close the deal. Ask for the money; how much, when do you need it, etc. - its as simple as that. Personalize to the donor how their donation will help your cause. For example, if you need $4000 for yard signs, tell them that you need at least $1000 for yard signs.
Look up how much potential donors have already given to other candidates, and ask for at least that amount.
Do you want more information on the SEC and 527 filings of candidates for political office? Wish you had a ready source of info about the moose and cheese PAC? Looking for the dirt on your "favorite" House or Senate candidate? Wanna find out about that big donor to the other guy's coffers? Is that what you're after, bunky? Then merely type http://www.tray.com.
- Hang out with successful people.
- Develop a database with factoids about your contacts.
Hardball by Chris Matthews
The Path to Power by Robert Caro
Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty by Harvey Mackay
PR is not a dirty word - it is simply the art of doing good and getting credit for it.
- Is a shortcut to connect with voters.
- Lends credibility and believability to your cause.
- Is free.
Some tips to attract positive PR:
1. Look for the media angle. For example, if you want more attention when you speak on veteran's issues, schedule your press conference or Freep on Veteran's Day or Memorial Day. This ties in nicely with 3) below.
2. Frame the issues. Don't let disruptors pull you off-topic - talk about what you came to talk about.
3. Ride the wave. Conservatives get considerable mileage and favorable coverage talking about terrorism post 9/11 - this is true because terrorism has become an issue that is foremost in the minds of voters.
More trivially, don't let an event with a lot of public buzz pass you by if you have something to say. Let public events help you make your points - strike while the iron is hot.
4. Be creative. I remember an individual present at a Sore Loserman Freep bringing her dog with her, carrying a sandwich board sign. The unusual and funny sticks in people's minds, and you'll not get that sort of favorable publicity by simply being a talking head.
1. Never lie. If you can't tell the truth, don't say anything at all.
Note: There is very little difference in a reporter's mind between lying and "misleading").
2. Never get upset or angry when talking to a reporter, and definitely do not raise your voice. Be friendly and respectful.
3. KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid). Your message and words should be simple and easy to understand.
4. Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition. Once you have a good, simple message, repeat it constantly.
5. Keep your sense of humor (or develop one). One of the most special memories of the Sore Loserman Freep I took away was the lady who dressed up her dog with a sandwich board sign reading, "Don't blame me - I voted for Bush!." That sign got the most giggles, winks, and positive comments from passersby of any of the signs we lugged around.
6. Become a source of information and news. If you want your side of the story told, tell it yourself. You can be sure your opponent will.
7. Never distribute inaccurate information. Be a reliable source. There is no excuse for being lazy and not double-checking all facts.
8. Learn about all local media; TV, newspapers, radio stations. Find out the deadlines, reporters you will most likely deal with, phone numbers, and fax numbers. The local AP bureau is vital, so don't forget them. My local AM news radio station (WBAP) sent people to cover our Sore Loserman Freep in December '00 at the Tarrant County Courthouse. They have 50,000 watts and millions of listeners; all we needed to harness a bit of that was one phone call.
9. Don't be afraid to call and introduce yourself to a reporter. Maybe even briefly get together with them to personally introduce yourself and explain what your organization or cause is about. This can be the beginning of developing a personal relationship. (But remember, reporters are never your "friends." They can turn on you in a second. Nothing personal, its just the business.)
10. If you don't know an answer, then say so and get back to the reporter later. (And remember Rule 1).
11. Don't make a habit of talking to reporters "off the record." Generally, if you're willing to say it, you should be willing to see it published. Assume everything you say is on the record.
12. When speaking to reporters in person, especially on TV, remember John Wayne's advice to young actors: "Speak low and speak slow." Do not look down at the microphones or at the cameras, look directly at the reporter(s) during the interview. You have nothing to be ashamed of in presenting your message; why look like you are?
13. If you have a problem with a story, call the reporter and talk to them about it. Explain why you think a certain part is inaccurate and back it up with documentation or other data. (Remember Rules 2 and 5). If necessary, ask the editorial page editor if you can write a response to be published on their op-ed page.
14. Attend the Leadership Institute's Public Relations School and Broadcast Journalism School.
How did Solicitor General Ted Olson buck the conventional wisdom that says conservative nominees - like Robert Bork and John Tower - get trashed in the press while liberal nominees get a pass?
Olson's secret, Supreme Court reporters say, is that the veteran litigator has assiduously cultivated media friendships for the last 20 years. He rarely fails to return a phone call from the press and has been known to take hours to make sure reporters understand the nuances of a complicated Supreme Court case, even one in which he is not involved.
Olson has cultivated "liberal" media friends for two decades. You would be hard-pressed to find any other lawyer in Washington who has been a bigger friend of the press than Ted. It just goes to show that being a good source can trump being a good liberal.
The winners of the awards were:
Peacerose, representing the CCRM Chapter (Best New Chapter)
Sauropod, representing the DC Chapter (Best Chapter)
JimRob, representing John Robinson (Lifetime Achievement)
Jeff Head (FReeper of the Year)
Chuck Muth spoke at the Awards Dinner. He said that we must grow the conservative movement from the ground up. Stop giving money to the national candidates and parties and give your money to good conservative local candidates.
The Leadership Institute's home page is at http://www.leadershipInstitute.org. There is a "Contact Us" menu selection there which gives email addresses.
This thread is intended to be an official reference resource of the events of the conference.
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