The recent Republican smear attack of John Edwards' should serve as a bellwether of how the Republicans will once again try win the White House, and of what Democrats must do to moving forward to defend ourselves. This me we...
The recent Republican smear attack of John Edwards' should serve as a bellwether of how the Republicans will once again try win the White House, and of what Democrats must do to moving forward to defend ourselves.
This me we know as fact: from this point forward until the election day 2008, every leading Democratic candidate will be attacked by the multi-headed hydra of the Republican smear machine. As a result, the 2008 election season will be marked by a destructive, highly-funded, well-organized, succession of smears--all of which will have shady ties to the RNC, the assistance of a complicit and unwitting broadcast media, and a clear mission of delivering election victory for every Republican.
For two successive Presidential elections, Democrats have watched candidate after candidate savaged by a well-organized, heavily-funded, and goal-oriented Republican smear machine with roots extending to the inner-circle of the current Republican administration. But even as we continue to see Republican smear campaigns rise up and attack, we Democrats continue to work alone rather than working in concert to deal with this problem.
That must change.
2008 must become the year Democrats band together to defend ourselves and--by extension--the American system of free and fair elections from the insidious threat of Republican smear campaigns.
DNC Should Establish A New Task Force On Republican Smear
Republican smear attacks against one Democratic candidate are attacks against all Democratic candidates. Unfortunately, the Democratic party does not yet treat them as such. Instead, we allow each candidate to defend themselves, on their own. This results in a constant derailing by Republicans of Democratic control of the national debate. As soon as a Democratic candidate begins to lead the debate, they are attacked by a Republican.
Therefore, to effectively deal with this problem moving forward, the DNC should establish a task force specifically charged with dealing with Republican smear. This task force will act on behalf of, but independent from all individual presidential and state-level Democratic candidates.
The New Task Force Should Be Staffed Predominantly By Internet Activists
Internet activists have proven themselves to be the most nimble and adept at fighting Republican smear, which is part of the reason why recent attacks on the Democrats have focused on them. To be most effective, the task force should consist predominantly of internet activists:
- internet organizers
- web architects and designers
- internet-based researchers
Since fighting back against Republican smear is what Democratic party internet activists and organizers do on a daily basis, the best strategy for the new task force would be to tap into this powerful party resource. Thus far, the DNC has barely made use of internet activists beyond fund raising and basic outreach. This new role will draw on an much needed, underused asset.
The New Task force Will Supply Daily Support to All Democratic Candidates
The most important job of the task force will be to serve as the eyes and ears of current Democratic candidates. This will take the form initially of daily reports on the Republican smear campaign delivered in a manner that is immediately usable for the campaigns. These reports should include, but not be limited to:
- Republican smear campaign forecasts
- Status of ongoing campaigns
- Framing and Keyword analysis
- Background research
- Strategy and tactic suggestions
- Internet activist reports
For example, in the recent Republican smear campaign on the John Edwards campaign by William Donohue, the task force could have quickly supplied the Edwards Campaign with the following information:
Bill Donohue's Claims of "Anti-Catholicism" or False: There is no organized or disorganized oppression by "secularists" of religious people in the United States. Period. Religious participation in the United States is on the rise, more and more people on a regular basis are enjoying religious freedom. No matter how many out-of-context quotes people like William Donohue pull up, the idea that Americans are being denied their civil right to practice religion in America is patently false.
Donohue Leading Voice in Ongoing "War on Christmas" Smear: Bill Donohue has worked for years to convince the American public that Christmas is under assault by "secular liberals," arguing among other things that the availability of Christmas themed consumer items in a supermarket is a civil rights issue. His efforts have been amplified by Republican strategists working with media outlets to create the false impression that Democrats contribute to the oppression of a Christian majority by enforcing the will of a non-Christian (often a euphemism for "Jewish) minority.
Candidates Should Fight Donohue by Reframing Debate on Legal/Electoral Issues: Candidates should not follow Donohue's lead by discussion or defending themselves from false accusations of "anti-religion" or "anti-Catholicism," but should instead reframe the debate to focus on the legality of Donohue's attacks and the danger Republican smear post to free and fair debate in U.S. elections.
Donohue's Attack Mimics Rhetoric of Henry Ford's 1920s Anti-Semitism: While Donohue is not explicitly arguing against Jews in his attack on Edwards, his style of argument is a virtual replication of Henry Ford's rhetoric in the 1920s series of editorials The International Jew. In that work, Ford laid the foundation for a political argument claiming oppression of a Christian American majority by a non-Christian minority. Many of Donohue's claims about Hollywood and liberals are virtually cut-and-pasted from Ford.
Candidates Should Defend Campaigns on Air, Refuse to Be Intimidated: The best way for candidates to defend against this attack would be a combined effort from all campaigns--first Edwards, then all other candidates--to defend the hiring of campaign staff, and then boldly refuse to be intimidated by Republican smear campaigns. In addition, all candidates must make use of their campaign networks to show that Donohue's smear campaign does not speak for Catholics, Christians or otherwise religious Americans. This is critical.
State and National Bloggers Ready to Coordinate Democratic Response: Bloggers familiar with Donohue's work and with the broader Republican effort to smear Democrats as "anti-Religious" are ready to work with all Democratic candidates on this issue. The TFRS will coordinate contacts and facilitate this united effort.
Reports such as this one can be prepared on a daily basis--including additional reports prepared during Republican assaults--and delivered through in-house or closed delivery.
New Task Force Should House A Legal Team
A crucial part of this united effort, the new task force will also have on staff a legal team focused at all times on the bringing to light any breach of campaign, election or finance laws violated by Republican smear campaigns. This ready legal component of the team will be the speed and strength of the Democratic response to any Republican smear campaign.
Democratic Candidates Must Commit To Working With New Task Force
Democratic candidates must be required to work with the task force by designating a campaign staff member as an official liaison. This campaign staffer will be responsible for maintaining communications from the campaign to the task force and for reporting the task force work to the campaign.
New Task Force Responsible for Pursuit of Smear Machine Out of Election Season
Beyond 2008, the work of the new task force will not end, but will focus on the long term project dismantling the Republican smear assault on American elections. Out of season, the task force will work on building research, issuing steady reports and alerts on Republican smear activity, following up on any legal issues that arose during the campaign season, and issuing forecasts in anticipation of upcoming elections.
Conclusion: Unify or Lose
The bigger picture in this call for a new task force is unity against an ongoing threat to the American political system. Ironically, Republicans have consistently worked together to bring about widespread animosity and national disunity, thereby building past electoral victory out of this destructive strategy. Democrats, by contrast, have tried to take on the full weight of these assaults through individual campaigns--and lost.
Now is the time for Democrats to recognize not only that we must defeat the Republican smear machine every time it attacks, but that we must take it on prior to and long after the heat of elections.
© 2007 Jeffrey Feldman, Frameshop