No one doubts that Republicans need an excellent ground game to get out the vote in the midterms. Democrat turnout in primary season and recent special elections is reported to have increased by 78 percent compared to the 2014 midterms. The turnout for Republicans has also increased, but only by 23 percent.
And, yes, the Republican National Committee proudly unveiled a much improved ground game this past July, with millions more voter contacts since 2014, and 20,000 “fellows” to direct the get out the vote effort in races across the country. Practical organizing is indeed key, but in these days of unprecedented political correctness and campaigns that smear Republican voters even more than candidates, even the best-oiled machinery may not cut it. More than anything else, conservatives need a psychological ground game that can beat back the psychological warfare the Left has been conducting for decades.
Democrats repeatedly send the message that anyone who votes Republican is a member of the Ku Klux Klan and a Nazi and a white supremacist. The goal is to suppress the Republican vote, or at least get Republican voters to censor themselves in public spaces. In these days of mob rule, these shaming campaigns are starting to feel like an attack on the secret ballot itself.
Conducting earnest, private conversations with people we actually know are the only effective way to combat this propaganda built on political correctness. Republicans need to invest in promoting this as a parallel ground game if they want to keep and maintain control of Congress. It will take millions of conversations among people who know and trust each other.
When you can identify with a person in your daily life, you are more apt to listen to that person. You are more able to trust that person’s judgment. One-on-one and face-to-face is key. Jacques Ellul, author of the classic book “Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Atttiudes,” made this clear in his book’s most compelling statement: “Propaganda ends where simple dialogue begins.”
Political Correctness Is Designed To Control
The ultimate purpose of political correctness is to control our one-on-one conversations. Here’s how it works. After the dominant media and influencers in a society smear an opinion in the public square, people start self-censoring. By shutting up about what we believe, we create a spiral of silence around any expression of that belief by anybody else.
The irony is that an opinion can actually be held by a majority of the public, albeit in secret, at the same time it’s being smeared in the media — about anything from politics to what bathroom to use to whether mustard goes with hot dogs. Shame over holding any particular opinion can be manufactured by those who control communications. Cult leaders do it all the time. Gas-lighting wife beaters do it all the time. And political operatives increasingly promote conformity and group think. So it pays to understand how this process works.
When you self-censor for fear of being isolated, you take part in building a spiral of silence around the view you hold. When those views go out of circulation, it creates the illusion of a public opinion cascade in the opposite direction. Public opinion, of course, drives public policy. So in the end, all you’ve done by self-censoring is usher in public policies that contradict your views.
Perception is everything. As an idea loses currency in public discourse, people tend to perceive that the majority believes the opposite. Have you ever experienced a stranger coming up to you assuming you share his views? This has happened to me a lot, and it’s annoying, not to mention disrespectful of a stranger’s capacity to think for himself.
It’s easy to publicly express a media-manufactured opinion, but people naturally fear being socially tainted, so they’re less likely to risk exposing an unpopular viewpoint or affiliation. Lots of people even falsify what they believe in order to be part of the perceived “in group,” or closer to the center of perceived power and status. This grows the spiral of silence even further.
False Narratives Erase Free Speech
This is all just standard social psychology. But we forget it at our peril, because left to its own devices, it can grow into totalitarianism. Consolidating power is exactly why power elites engage in the agitation of political correctness. For them, controlling the narrative means controlling the conversations. So nobody who values free expression can afford to take the path of least resistance by reflexively self-censoring.
Let’s face it. Democrats control most of the big guns of the communications infrastructure. They have a host of billionaire donors going for broke, such as Tom Steyer, who is spending $110 million on pet concerns, including to grow an “impeachment army.” Hollywood celebrities are going all out as well. Silicon Valley and the tech communications titans — Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Google — have been shutting down conservative messages on the internet.
The Left also has seasoned “community organizers,” as seen in former President Obama’s “Organizing for Action” and its spawn, building up Democrat voter rolls with street armies of clipboard-wielding youth. They have most of academia on their side, and the corporate world generally does what it’s told by media elites. The list goes on.
Purveyors of political correctness still don’t control everybody’s one-on-one personal conversations and friendships. That’s the biggest prize. But they have made a dent to the extent that people self-censor to avoid expressing opinions perceived as bad. This is why any conservative ground game has to include an effort to get conservatives engaging others about what’s on their minds and what the stakes are – for our future, for our freedoms, and for the Constitution.
The Power of the Ripple Effect
People understandably fear being ostracized. But freedom of thought and expression have become endangered as the rules of political correctness become increasingly arbitrary and the punishment for violating them increasingly draconian. Political correctness is a deep hole we’ve dug for ourselves over the years by complying with it rather than fighting back. We’ve allowed the spiral of silence to entrench itself, isolating and dividing us ever further.
Yes, there has been some good pushback, including the #walkaway campaign by folks who now realize they’ve been exploited politically by those who’ve been taking their votes for granted. Republicans need to engage these folks, especially if they know them personally. If not, they need to reach out, especially if they can identify with them.
In this one sense, identity politics can actually serve as a bridge connecting minority conservatives within the divisive communities the Left has built over the years. Outreach and friendly engagement is the only tried and true way to create a ripple effect that emboldens voters who might otherwise be worn down and silenced by political correctness.
People who are fearful of engaging must first gauge the risks. Will you really lose your job if you reveal your views to a co-worker or associate? Will you really get a failing grade if you reveal your views to a classmate? Perhaps there’s a chance of that, but we’ve no choice but to try and claw our way out if we want to preserve freedom of expression.
If your risk is manageable and you are a motivated Republican voter, then you should be part of the ripple effect to help get out the vote. Consider three possibilities if you speak out, all of them positive for the future of free speech and the reversal of the spiral of silence. First, by speaking out, you could engage a like-minded thinker. Once that person knows he or she is not alone, he becomes emboldened and feels liberated by knowing he has an ally. Second, you could be engaging a fence-sitter. By doing so, you have influenced that person.
Third — and this is what everyone fears — you could be outing yourself to someone who gets angry and cuts themselves off from you. But why is that person so triggered? Chances are it’s because they have never heard that opinion from someone they know and trust. Congratulations. You have just shattered the stereotype, or at least watered it down. And that’s a huge part of changing the overall dynamic — maybe even the most important part.
Practical Pieces of the Ground Game
It’s especially critical to get out the vote in 2018, because Trump’s 2016 victory is not transferable to the midterms, no matter his approval numbers. Historically, the party occupying the White House loses in the midterms. Republicans also can’t count on a booming economy to get out the vote. A good economy is critical, but it doesn’t drive happy voters as much as a bad economy drives angry voters. Finally, we all know Democrats are a lot more energized about the 2018 midterms.
As mentioned above, the RNC now reports it has outdone itself with grassroots organizing to more than match that of Obama’s campaigns. That helps in making up for ground lost during the Obama campaigns that outdistanced Republicans in registering voters, getting out the vote, organizing on the precinct level, and getting their folks to work the polls as both election officers and poll watchers.
Democrats are also focusing a lot more on critical down-ballot races. And liberal activists are driven to occupy seats on many local citizen commissions and boards. (Here’s a sample list of such opportunities from one jurisdiction. School boards are especially critical.)
On top of all that, there is now an uphill battle in simply trying to keep elections free and fair. Standard maintenance of voter integrity through voter ID or purging deceased voters from the rolls are now considered acts of “voter suppression” by Democrat leaders. Consider the fact that Democrats are already lawyering up to sue by using the charge of voter suppression in anticipation of any losses in the upcoming midterms.
The Psychological Ground Game
I don’t know exactly how the GOP fellows are conducting the ground game for the midterms. No doubt they are supplying the troops with talking points as they go door to door. Door-to-door campaigning is standard practice, and absolutely essential for Republicans to get their message out to voters.
But the strongest, most effective psychological ground game will consist of as many voters as possible engaging people who know and trust them, especially if those people don’t know who they are voting for yet. Opening up in daily life to just one or two others who identify with you is what causes real ripple effects. That’s the sort of psychological ground game I’m talking about.
Some of the features I envision would include: exploring and disarming the reasons motivated Republican voters are reticent about expressing their ideas on a personal level; clarifying to all that the PC-induced culture of fear will completely snuff out their voices if they don’t push back; conducting “free speech workshops” in which concerned citizens learn how to express themselves in the culture of fear induced by political correctness; and an actual campaign that clarifies how political correctness and identity politics are simply forms of agitation that shut down human communication and potential for friendship. (Perhaps a T-shirt that says “Please Don’t Label Me.” Or “Can we talk about talking?”)
Some more helpful features: making support of the First Amendment a key issue, and putting Democrats on defense as opponents of free thought, as well as free speech; obtaining clarity from candidates about the above, and articulating just how counter-productive political correctness is to the purported left-wing goals of “equality and justice”; getting the word out on the importance of having real conversations through talk radio hosts and others with a platform.
Whether you believe the 2018 midterms will bring a blue tsunami or trickle or a red tsunami or trickle, one thing is certain: The stakes are high. The Constitution is on trial, as well as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Anyone alarmed about what would happen if we adopted the Ponzi scheme that calls itself “socialism” should make a point of coming out of their cocoons to expose their decision to vote “R” to just one or two trusted people.
The sway of a trusted person’s influence might be what it takes to sway an election. The purveyors of political correctness know this very, very well. That is why they are so well-versed in the art of the smear and guilt by association. Let’s put a stop to that.