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2010-08-29 16:36 by Karl Denninger
in Editorial , 136 references Ignore this thread
To The Tea Party (And Related Organizations) *
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You're not going to want to hear this.

Nonetheless, you have to.

If you want to win - indeed, if you want to make any sort of serious inroad into the American Political Process, you need to read this, you need to listen, and you need to adopt this path.

If you do not, you will be marginalized into irrelevance, no matter what else you do.

Here it is:

You must discard - intentionally - all "wedge issues" as points of debate, discussion, or campaigning.  You know what these issues are - they fall broadly into the category of religion in one form or another.

These are issues such as abortion and gay rights (in all it's forms, including marriage debates), but is by no means limited to these two.  In short, if there's a religious basis for your position, you must not campaign on it, and indeed you must pointedly refuse to discuss it.

The Tea Party began as a protest over bailouts and handouts - that is, theft and corruption within our markets, government and economy.  This is a winning position with 90% of the American Body Politic. 

Any candidate who runs on these issues - and these issues alone, promising to stop it and lock up the scammers - all of them - wins.

As soon as you bring the other issues that everyone wants to talk about into this, you will lose.

Here's why.

These are called "wedge issues" for a reason.  There is about half the population, for example, that will rally around a position of "Abortion is Murder."  There is also about half the population that will say "well, maybe in some cases, but in others no", all the way down to "you can abort any time you want prior to the first breath."

What you personally believe is irrelevant to the political process.  These issues are used by the two main political parties to get the electorate to divide on a 50/50 basis - thus leaving them having to persuade exactly one person of their position on some other issue to win.

You cannot win such a contest.  At best you can force one of the other parties - the one that most agrees with you - to lose.  The reason is simple - you will split that half of the electorate, which means the other party - the one that disagrees with your position on those issues - wins the election.

Drill this into your head folks:

If you allow these issues to become part of your campaign, you will not only lose you will cause the party that most-agrees with you to lose.

I know this is going to be unpopular, but it needs to be said.  I've seen this happening in some of the local Tea Party groups, and it saddens me.  The local Niceville branch here featured people talking about "natural law" as an important qualifying factor for political candidacy, as just one of many examples. There were times I felt like I had walked into a Baptist sermon.

The Tea Party and other political expressions like it are, of course, free to run on whatever platform they'd like, and to back candidates based on whatever they'd like.  But if you're going to do this, then you'd be wise to try to take over the Republican Party instead of being "independent" or any other sort of "outside" influence, because it is the only way you can win with this approach.

That is, you can try to turn the Republican Party into The Tea Party, and then apply your litmus tests.  Now you have your 50%, and you need to persuade only one voter.  That's a winning strategy, if you can pull it off.  But to pull it off you will have to displace all of the "money men" who corrupted the Republicans - let us not forget that the Republicans were the ones who brought Henry Paulson into the Treasury after he, as Goldman's chief, set up lots of dodgy financial instruments, and then protected the banks who did those deeds from being smashed when it all blew up in their faces.

Not that the Democrats are blameless, of course. "Who is Chris Dodd and Barney Frank" would be a good starting question on that side of the aisle, and of course it doesn't stop there.  Nancy Pelosi and illegal immigrants anyone?

The Tea Party infiltrating The Republican establishment is a long shot.  Witness John McCain, who made a campaign spectacle out of bailing out the banks.  How's JD Hayworth doing in challenging him?  He lost, right?  How'd that happen?  The same way it always happens: Hayworth let the campaign's terms include those wedge issues, and then got tattoed by the guy with the bigger warchest and the ability to threaten people politically.

You either change the terms of the debate and the issues upon which the election is decided or you lose. 

It's that simple.

The candidate that says this to the TV cameras and his opponent wins:

I am running on fiscal responsibility which I define as (insert your platform), and on the removal of embezzlement and fraud from our government and financial system, (insert your platform), including the reversal of the bailouts my opponent voted for and supported.  Where fraud and embezzlement took place I will do everything in my power to see that each and every person involved goes to prison, starting with those at the top of these large corporations and, when necessary, current members of our government.

If you insist debating other issues the microphone is all yours, and you may monopolize it all you want.  We may agree or disagree on those issues, but that's not what I'm here to discuss, and it's not what I'm running on.

If you elect me you will get the following (list of corruption and fraud that you intend to excise, along with your fiscal responsibility promises, including charts, facts and figures.) 

I understand that these other issues are important to virtually everyone, but I also understand that almost exactly half of you who hear me speak now are on each side of these issues and none of you are going to change your mind.  Therefore, the question I ask you is this: Are those issues more important than getting rid of the fraud, corruption, and scamming in our government and economy?  If they are, no matter which side of those issues you happen to be on, then I'm probably not your candidate.  If, on the other hand, fixing our economy, locking up the fraudsters and putting a stop to the rampant theft from each and every citizen in this room, which has personally indebted each and every man, woman and child in America by more than $40,000 over the last three years, is the most-important issue before you as you head to the polls, then I ask for your vote.

If you don't do this as a third-party or "outsider" candidate, you lose.

You need to appeal to the 90% issues and ignore the 50/50 ones. 

On purpose.

Oh sure, there will be some people who won't vote for you without those answers to the questions you refuse to entertain and waste your time on.  The siren song from those organizations, whether they be "Focus on the Family" or "Planned Parenthood" is strong.  But their siren song is false, for every voter you attract by appealing to them comes with one who will vote against you with rabid furor, and the direction in which you declare your intentions on these issues doesn't matter - there is no winning in those points of debate no matter how you approach it.  You can only lose and worse, cause those most-aligned with you to lose.

In short those who think that $40,000 is less important than your stance on abortion will split their vote for and against irrespective of which side of that issue you come down on.  Your opponent that is closest to your personal position on abortion will thus lose, and so will you!

The only way you can avoid this happening is to not allow the debate to go down that road, and you must be steadfast and studious in rejecting all entreaties and attempts to get you to speak on those issues, because the two major political parties know this is how they get you to forfeit your ability to win - the fact that you stand and run on an issue they cannot agree with and yet which 90%+ of the population sees your way!

The Tea Party will not listen to this, but until they do, they will be insignificant, and the two primary political parties know it.

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Throxxofvron 10k posts, incept 2009-02-17


Punishing fraud and criminality, imposing strict fiscal responsibility and strictly equally enforcing the Laws, are plenty to Campaign upon; and those issues are what will WIN if they are offered.

DIONYSUS: " Thou hast no knowledge of the life thou art leading; thy very existence is now a mystery to thee. " -from 'The Bacchantes' By Euripides During times of universal deceit, telli
Asimov 148k posts, incept 2007-08-26

Pretty good summary of the political process here for decades now. I hope more than a few of the independents (tea party, whatever) see things the same way.

It's justifiably immoral to deal morally with an immoral entity.

Festina lente.

Eleua 22k posts, incept 2007-07-05

I agree with your entire premise.

The problem is the political reality of what the Left does in the election. They KNOW, absolutely proof-positively know, they will lose and lose bad on fiscal issues. They know this.

Go back and look at just about any election. If the GOP/Conservative candidate is winning on the issues, the Lefty will, 100% of the time, inject 4 "wedge" issues:


The Left will campaign on these cultural issues that their side salivates over. This energizes their base while, if unchallenged, depresses the conservative base.

I wholly agree that fiscal issues should be enough to win. The reality is that the actual campaign will cause cultural (wedge) issues to be debated. It is best for the conservatived to stay on message of fiscal responsibility, but he still has to keep his base on cultural issues.

Fiscally responsible politicians that seen soft on the Second Amendment, atheistic-based religious intolerance, and overall cultural rot are not that appealing to the larger base.

Reagan won on all issues, but stayed largely on topic with the fiscal issues. To ignore is to tacitly endorse. That is the political reality.

I wish it were not so.

Diversity + proximity = WAR

-The facts do not care about your narrative. The "GREAT NOTICING" continues apace.
Tickerguy 200k posts, incept 2007-06-26

The Left will campaign on these cultural issues that their side salivates over. This energizes their base while, if unchallenged, depresses the conservative base.

It doesn't depress anything unless you engage on them.

Let them scream. They think they'll get their 50%. The problem is that half of their 50% agrees with you on the fiscal issues, and unless you give them the "red meat" you will pick off half or so of their voters, and they go down BADLY.

One single WORD out of you about these issues however, and you lose, because they're back to the 50%+1.

"Anyone wearing a mask will be presumed to be intending armed robbery and immediately shot in the face. Govern yourself accordingly."
Geschrei 719 posts, incept 2009-02-23

Sadly, Karl, I'm afraid you're too late with this one.

Now that partisan hacks like Dick Armey, Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist and Our Lady of Wasilla have claimed ownership of the Tea Party, the movement has effectively swallowed a poison pill.

A lot of seats will change hands in November, but in the end nothing much will change for the better. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

"Useful idiots remain useful only for a short while - but they're idiots forever." Geschrei, 2021
Jackson 27 posts, incept 2010-06-09

I agree 100%, I would vote for this candidate you describe.. I am a pro lifer and Christian .. I do not vote on those beliefs. Great ticker!
Mayorquimby 14k posts, incept 2008-09-18

To be perfectly honest, I'm actually annoyed that so many religious issues have been brought into the mix. This is a homegrown anti-corruption, anti-big gvmt/fraud movement seeking accountability for those that BROKE THE LAW and somehow we're suddenly discussing gay rights and abortion? I personally don't care WHAT or WHO a person does with his wang. I'm personally opposed to abortion but feel that's a separate battle for a separate time.

I was actually *very* disappointed in yesterday's rally. Religious fringe elements are going to kill this movement BIG time. I mean - they were SINGING up there! If people can't see how a 24-year old at home with his roommates would want to turn away from the 'hallelujah praise the lord' crowd for get it. Enjoy more getting pissed on by the left because the John Stewart crowd will continue to hold the 'center'.

They who wish to hurt you, work within the law.
- Morrissey

Gold is theft.
Joe-bob 2k posts, incept 2007-09-18

Beautiful - and this describes exactly what we need right now. Our nation's very existence, not to mention its existence as a republic functioning under the rule of law with equal justice for all is at stake right now. All issues that distract from this must be ACTIVELY resisted wherever and whenever possible - those coming from both the left AND the right.

ie a tea party candidate would go far in answering any wedge issue questions put to them with a description of how these issues (again, both "left" and "right") have been harmful to our political process and a pledge/promise to attempt to vote down, deny a hearing on, etc any of the wedge issues currently used to divide us - for the duration of their time in office if elected. A promise to do ones best to publicly embarrass the wedge issue politicians, to shame them for their tactics, would, I think, win extra support AND help change the terms on which campaigns are run going forward to one that is more civic-minded and less rabble-rousing.

There's a VERY useful piece of logic in this. Here's an example: Hockey players have historically resisted wearing face-covering headgear even though it would greatly reduce facial/dental/vision/hearing damage over the course of one's career. When polled, it turned out that if EVERYONE were required to wear the protective headgear, they were in favor of doing so. The explanation for this seeming contradiction - a refusal to wear the better helmets while being in favor of switching to them - was that those with the current helmets had a much wider field of vision - anyone keeping the old style helmets would have an advantage over the others with the safer helmets. If everyone adopted them, there would be no one at a disadvantage and EVERYONE would be better off!

Those not on board with social/religious conservatism are of course worried that their heartfelt concerns about corruption in politics and business will end up being USED AGAINST THEM by the tea party candidates to advance a social agenda. (At least with a near 50/50 split on the wedge issues, both sides tend to get restrained in advancing their issues.) You can't convince the other team to adopt the safer helmets because it's the right thing to do, only to beat the crap out of the other side by running rings around them and blindsiding them over and over cause you kept the old ones yourself. Don't just go silent on those issues - we've got to actively fight them BEING issues.


Wcvarones 94 posts, incept 2007-07-13

You obviously just have a wingnut Tea Party there in Niceville.

Out here in Calif (and from what I can tell, around most of the country), Tea Parties are 100% fiscal conservatism and limited government.

Check some of the local activists blogs for a look at what they're about:

Don't lend no hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.
Geschrei 719 posts, incept 2009-02-23

And that's the problem, MayorQ - even a middle-aged traditionalist conservative Christian like myself is turned off by "vote for us because we love Jesus" approach - even on those exceedingly rare occasions when it's not just a cynical ploy to 'energize the base'.

The unfortunate truth is, if we don't get our house in order IMMEDIATELY, none of the social issues will have any meaning - because we will no longer have a means to address them politically. Unfortunately, that seems to be the direction in which we're headed, Tea Party or no Tea Party.

Beck's managed to get the message of fiscal responsibility out there a few times, but this whole thing yesterday was a huge egomaniacal overreach IMHO.

"Useful idiots remain useful only for a short while - but they're idiots forever." Geschrei, 2021
Txin1880 4k posts, incept 2009-02-25

Typical ticker, succinctly nails the issue at hand. Excellent.

Realization - Rage - Resolve - Rifles - Rope - Recovery - Rinse - Repeat
Zlow_hand 798 posts, incept 2008-01-22

kd - well said.

I can speak from personal experience that if you stay on a fiscal conservative message you will not only win but absolutely trounce the opposition. (Local tax issue. We opposed it. 86% of voters told the city to stuff the tax up their ass. And this is in a heavily democratic area. And we were Republicans behind the issue.)
Zzt 3k posts, incept 2007-06-26

Shit, now I think I have another 'favorite' Ticker. Each one is better than the last. Divide and conquer has worked in many instances in the past and the Tea Party could fall victim to it in the future. FOCUS is the key, as stated in this Ticker. FOCUS. Take care of first things first. Fiscal responsibility , anti corruption and and bribe taking ( campaign 'contributions' ), punish the guilty no matter what office they have attained ( oops ), punish 'moral hazard' dont reward it. Leave the religious BS and life style BS out for now and address them later.

F O C U S !!!

Nice Ticker and great advice.
Throxxofvron 10k posts, incept 2009-02-17

I kinda hate to ask for You to do a bunch of work after Your battle with the TF Server this last week; but, You might need to do a YouTube Video on this Karl.

Exlaining 'Wedge Issues' by quoting a dictionary or wiki and then having a little chat about how these are used to divide the electorate and allow marginal voters to control outcomes would clarify the whole issue.

'Tea Party Tactics' or some such title would get a lot of hits especially over the next few months...

DIONYSUS: " Thou hast no knowledge of the life thou art leading; thy very existence is now a mystery to thee. " -from 'The Bacchantes' By Euripides During times of universal deceit, telli

Richard112360 610 posts, incept 2008-02-06

I agree 1000%!! Thanks for saying this KD.
Dobledelux 419 posts, incept 2010-01-13

You nailed it Karl...This needs to be circulated to all tea party chapters. God knows I hate it when religion is used as a wedge issue. Religion, the original political party :-).

I invoke my 5th Amendment right to remain silent and Am I free to go?
Eleua 22k posts, incept 2007-07-05

Let's hangar fly this.

Let's presume that we have a incumbent Democrat in a moderate district that is vulnerable on bailouts and fiscal issues.

The TP, GOP, or whomever is running a great campaign on fiscal issues and beating the brains in of the Dem.

It's late September.

The GOP/TP is leading 55/45 in a two man race in a district that went 58/42 for the Dem in 2008.

Does anyone actually think the Dem is just going to continue to debate his losing position? Anyone? Anyone at all?

Hell no. The Dem is going to change the game to one where he thinks he has an advantage (or at least not one where he is losing badly).

He read KD's Ticker and knows that he needs to get the GOP/TP to be one of those Dick Armeyu, Newt Gingrich, or Our Lady of Wisalla candidates that can't stop yammering about social issues that nobody likes, so he injects the following ads:

"Our teen birth rate is at 40%. We need comprehensive care for women paid by the taxpayer to keep the costs associated with unwed, teen pregnancy down. That's the kind of fiscal responsibility I stand for. Ken Doll Conservative would cut programs for women's health, further endangering our children and continuing the cycle of poverty, prison, and child abuse. I'm Joe Prog, and I approved this message."

"Ken Doll Conservative believes that the world was created in 6 days and disregards science telling us otherwise. If his views become law, our schools will be forced to teach his religious dogma and disregard science. He believes that religious myths deserve equal or better time in schools paid by all of us. This increases costs in the schools while at the same time makes us scientifically vulnerable in the future. I'm for science and against religious intolerance. I'm Joe Prog, and I approved this message."

"Equal rights for all Americans is the foundation on which I stand and the reason I went to Washington two years ago. This view is difficult to hold in the face of the overwhelming religious intolerance of 12% of the population that only wants what the other 88% of us have - the ability to stand beside a loved on in the hospital without having to go to court to do so.

My opponent, Ken Doll Conservative, doesn't believe in equal rights for all Americans and wants gay Americans to sit at the back of the bus as second class citizens. He was Commanding Officer of a squadron that ran gay sailors, serving honorably, out of the Navy, denying them the ability to serve the nation they love just because they didn't keep quiet about their devotion to their fellow man. Ken Doll Conservative's bigoted beliefs are an affront to all of us and if left unchecked, his alighnment with Dick Armey, Newt Gingrich, and Our Lady of Wasilla, will erode precious rights for all Americans.

This is not mainstream. This is dangerous. I won't allow this kind of anti-American bigotry to flourish under my watch. I'm Joe Prog, and I approved this message,"

If the Dem runs these ads, the Conservative has to respond because one of the basic truths of modern politics is that negative ads work. They become "truth" if left unchallenged.

Sorry, that's the reality.

You can go on and on about fiscal issues, but if the Prog media won't shut up with Joe Prog's talking points, you won't get the chance.

IF you can keep the Progs from injecting God, Guns, Gays, and Abortion, you will win every time on fiscal issues.

Good luck with that.

The Marines have a saying, "A battle plan is valid until first contact with the enemy."

Diversity + proximity = WAR

-The facts do not care about your narrative. The "GREAT NOTICING" continues apace.

Tickerguy 200k posts, incept 2007-06-26

Go ahead Eleua with your beliefs.

How many times have you lost with them?

Every single last one.

And you will continue to do so.

"Anyone wearing a mask will be presumed to be intending armed robbery and immediately shot in the face. Govern yourself accordingly."
Trader_kid 6k posts, incept 2007-09-27

The Tea Party - hijacked and sidetracked.

It's unfortunate.

"(The Fed) is in the business of imposing false values." - Jim Grant
"When the fear of losing money overcomes the fear of being thought stupid, that's when you get capitulation." - Art Cashin
Zlow_hand 798 posts, incept 2008-01-22

el, those tactics can be easily countered. Simply stay on message. A good campaign manager will anticipate those attacks and already have a defense prepared.

"Ken Doll conservative is a strong proponent of equal rights for all. He also believes in fair housing and lending practices. No one should be forced to bail out bankers who make bad decisions. It's your money and you get the right to spend it on your family how you see best. As your congressman I'll push policy to get America innovating and working again, make damn sure the borders are protected, the air stays clean, and the bad guys get put in jail. You promise to feed and take care of your families and I think we have a deal."

Prepared and paid for by Ken Doll Conservative

It's that easy.

disclosure: former campaign manager

Eleua 22k posts, incept 2007-07-05

I applaud your optimism. Really, I do.

My entire premise (stated in one form or another on every posting) is that the Dems are not going to take the fiscal issues lying down. They will be forced to change the status quo in the campaign.

They can't on fiscal issues, so what's left?

Watch this October and see for yourself. The "racism" dog isn't hunting like it used to, so what else do they have?

Everyone is correct that in an ideal environment the Conservative should stick to the fiscal issues. If I were running, I would try to do exactly that. I'd do my best to throw it back in their faces.

In my hypothetical race, Inslee (a liberal Dem) is getting beat by me 53/47 with two weeks to go. I'm creaming him on fiscal issues.

In a debate, he injects God, Guns, Gays, Abortion...I'd throw it right back and say that the electorate isn't interested in your social agenda, but they are tired of having their pockets picked to pick up the damage for such.

Yeah, that's what I'd say if I were on the same stage.

Now, the Seattle media (imagine where they tilt) runs ads and hit pieces on those 4 issues.

I have to run ads in response or I risk losing the enthusiasm of my base and energizing his, not to mention scaring off the middle.

You can only win on the "middle" if the bases are comparable in size and energy. If you have an advantage in base support (both size and energy) you have a stronger hand.

Regarding "losing" on my beliefs...

Please cite the elections the GOP has lost by courting the cultural conservatives. (I'm not saying they have not).

Please cite the elections the cultural conservatives made the margin of victory for the GOP.

You can't tell 2/3 of your base to STFU, send money, vote for who we tell you to, and accept what is given and expect to win. One fact, sad or not, is that the cultural conservatives have shown they will sit on their hands rather than vote for tone deaf "conservatives."

Full disclosure: I didn't hear the discussions at the Niceville TP gathering, so I don't know what was said. In what I have read about other TP gatherings, the issues have been pretty much fiscal in nature, even though the bulk of those in attendance probably had very strong cultural/religious beliefs.

At the Inslee Town Hall last year, there were many that were against what he was saying. Most were somewhat religious in nature but the dialogue was confined to fiscal issues.

It just seems to me that we are trying to win by telling our base to STFU. My experience is that the conservative base wants to campaign on fiscal issues but isn't interested in socially progressive candidates. That's not exactly hard to understand.

The political reality is that fiscal conservatism and social conservatism tend to go hand in hand. Fiscal irresponsibility tends to be necessitated by horrid social policy.

Diversity + proximity = WAR

-The facts do not care about your narrative. The "GREAT NOTICING" continues apace.
Dmm219 324 posts, incept 2009-08-14


As an independent I can say the local tea parties (and viciously hateful republicans) have become very scary. Even though I hate democrats and their pandering to the rich and banks...I can not, and WILL not, in good conscience, vote for these folks...

The tea party was hijacked long again. Now that is the evangelical/mormom party of Beck/ an independent...they have lost my vote.

I am only left with 3rd parties now...

Bigcowboy 661 posts, incept 2010-03-12

Staying on message is IMPORTANT. According to one of the gay bloggers, the Tea Party supporters have been welcoming gays with open arms.

The Tea Party supporters have remained silent on the federal judge's decision to annul DOMA.

Eleua 22k posts, incept 2007-07-05

One more thing...

It's not one person swaying another to get 50%+1.

You must NET +1.

Lose your base - lose your election. It's really very simple.

Obama won for a number of reasons. The single greatest thing he had (and he had all the political winds at his back) was that his base was simply orgasmic over the entire premise of an Obama presidency, while McStain's base was holding their noses and voting.

You are not going to win any election where your base is vomiting outside the polls and the other base is wanking themselves into unconsciousness.

On the fiscal front, the GOP in general was off message due to the horrific display of the GWB Administration. Fiscal issues COULD NOT be discussed by McCain because the GOP standarbearer (the POTUS is always the standard bearer) was so uncredible on the subject.

Diversity + proximity = WAR

-The facts do not care about your narrative. The "GREAT NOTICING" continues apace.
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