Friday, February 19, 2021


I say this frequently: Saul Alinsky was a left-winger, but only Republicans seem to take him seriously these days. Among Alinsky's Rules for Radicals was this one:
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
Republicans are excellent at this -- the right-wing media personalizes every issue and devotes most of its energy to creating Democratic, liberal, and leftist demons. This makes it easy for every Republican candidate, in every race for every office, to run against Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Democrats in recent years have been good at focusing anger on Donald Trump -- but, of course, he all but begs his enemies to hate him. However, Democrats haven't been very good at personalizing their anger against Republicans in Congress. Few Democratic Senate candidates feature Mitch McConnell in their ads, and hardly anyone knows who Kevin McCarthy is. (Democrats didn't do much better with John Boehner, or even the better-known Paul Ryan.)

But the story of the Texas deep freeze got very, very personal this week. I wouldn't say the Democrats "picked the target" -- Ted Cruz's trip to Cancún just dropped in their laps. But there was clearly an appetite for an ad hominem. America can't get enough of the story.

Prior to this, our side was fighting the way it usually does: on policy. We were defending the idea of shifting away from fossil fuels, in response to right-wing disinformation about the cause of Texas's power crisis. To the right, it was all about AOC; to us, it was about the relative proportions of natural gas and wind power in the winter energy mix of Texas. And then the Cruz family booked a flight.

Demonization isn't high-minded, but it's emotionally satisfying. I wouldn't want our side to resort to it as often as the right does -- i.e., every minute of every day -- but couldn't we at least routinely target scoundrels like McConnell, or media figures like the Fox prime-time lineup, for Cruz-level scorn? Hell, we barely talked about the human carcinogen Rush Limbaugh in the last few years before his death.

Let's do this! It works!

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