"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
- American children's proverb
This famous saying might actually have its origins in Civil War slave quarters, where the punishment of a whip lashing was considered far worse than that of a tongue lashing. In modern America, the battlefield of ideas is generally fought with words and not guns, and with that came the concept of weaponizing words.
Words can hurt, deeply. The knife-throwing of political discourse in America ramped itself up over the years, to the point where the term "bomb-thrower" first meant someone who sought mass attacks using explosive words. Liberals have long sought to control the debate by establishing battle lines that would corner their opposition so that any real debate was held under rules designed to ensure liberals would, at worst, earn a draw even if the facts did not support them. Name-calling with attack words became a common tactic of the left
"The tongue is mightier than the blade."
- Greek poet Euripides, circa 406 B.C. (more commonly today: "The pen is mightier than the sword.")
The American media has always considered itself powerful enough to claim that the "fourth estate" is a de facto fourth branch of government, that its ability to shape public opinion gave it an ungranted Constitutional power. As technology began to grow -- from print to radio to television to electronic -- liberals beat conservatives to the punch. They were the ones who saw the potential of overwhelming power of mass media. Using an already friendly academia as a launching pad, liberals sought to flood journalism with like-minded and eager young Americans who were sold on the concept that entering journalism was first and foremost a desirable position for any young individual who sought to "make the world a better place."
Twisting the concepts of what journalism really is into something that was an activist movement for "the public good" allowed liberals to begin to control the message. Once in control, they wielded the blade and cut off all debate, with an agreeable media firing bullet points.
"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."
- Saul Alinsky: Rules for Radicals, number 13
This was not some simple radical theory that sat dusty in a coffee shop in Haight-Ashbury. This was war-gaming. It was, until recently, effective. Alinsky also noted, overstated but true, that "ridicule is man's most potent weapon." The committed operatives chose the targets, the faithful believers barked out the points, and the agreeing media echoed the sentiments. It was a tremendously successful plan executed with precision that would not just shape public sentiment, but build the fortress of a framework of public policy. Lust for total control of that policy collided with the discovery of a political figure they truly believed was messianic, one so bright that he would blind them and open the eyes of the opposition at the same time
"We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."
- Barack Obama, October 31, 2008
As it turns out, Obama's math was a little off. From the day he said this to the real transformation will be, more exactly, two years and two days. That will be the day Alinsky modeling dies.
The left, especially their media wing, are stunned at what is likely to happen on November 2, 2010 -- not just in the election results or the repudiation of their ideals, but more in that, from nowhere, it seems to them, all the ammo they have is suddenly worthless. Backs against the coming electoral wall, they have attacked on every front, using their entire arsenal. Americans who oppose their agenda on any given issue have been, and still are, called the most vicious names the media can conjure up. Homophobic, Islamaphobic, xenophobic, greedy, and, of course, racist. Their media does its not-so-subtle best to paint conservatives with a blood brush, from direct attacks (Time magazine asking if "America [is] Islamaphobic" -- meaning anyone who dares disagree with the liberal position on the mosque at Ground Zero is a racist) to the indirect assaults (CNN referring to the massive crowd at Glen Beck's 8/28 Washington rally as "predominantly white" -- insinuating that the crowd was a collection of racists). Those and all their other attacks have failed. For the first time in modern American political debate, the liberal label gun is jamming. Worse for liberals, the bullets will likely never be effective again.
Obama can take credit. His "transformation" turned into an American awakening. The Democratic Party made a gigantic miscalculation in 2008. If it had pushed Hillary Clinton over the top (and let's recall the primary ended in a near dead heat), then it could have continued -- steady as she goes -- in its use of words and labels to bottle debate and win on its issues. Instead, it backed a young, untested, and unknown politician. Even its media was unsure of its footing (see, for example, Charlie Rose interviewing Tom Brokaw shortly after the election, with the two of them saying openly that they were not really sure who Obama was). The price the left will pay is beyond large. The short-term political blowback is a fairly minor cost compared to the laid-bare exposing to the public of their tactics. Obama was and remains a true believer in those community activist tactics. It is who he really is. Taking those tactics from grassroots liberal organizing (in the media and politically protected areas of south Chicago) and parading them onstage before the entire nation has come at a stunning cost to liberalism.
No longer can the left use broad terms to describe people who disagree with them and have those people sit idly by and accept it. For example, it used to be the left would play the "R" card to silence dissent against its positions and control any particular debate. Those tagged would likely turn and run from any fight for fear that any pushback would make a false accusation stick. Keeping out of the line of liberal fire was the only way to survive. That fear is now gone, and likely for good.
Obama desired to fundamentally transform the country, allowing his allies to use Alinsky tactics to clear the road. Pushing identity politics as a route to form group policy. Labeling and attacking anyone who disagreed with the liberal positions on illegal immigration, government-run health care, economic redistribution, federalizing central government power, seeking union-backed control of private enterprise, re-envisioned foreign policy, and many other "transformative" issues.
The once-invincible tactics became bogged down in political quicksand. Obama's miscalculation of the desire of the American public to use central power to transform the nation quickly turned to a toxic soup that stood firmly against the American spirit of rugged individualism. Ramming home a wildly unpopular health care overall against the wishes of the American people was the endgame.
Not only will Americans seek to overturn virtually all of what Obama sought or gained, but now they will also discount being corralled by liberal labels. Revolting against government abuse through strong-arm tactics is what gave rise to the Tea Party movement. Whether that particular movement remains is beside the point, because now the spirit it embodies has emboldened the majority of this nation to stand firm on its core values. It is a battle liberals have now completely lost for multiple generations.
Worse again, it was the liberals' own words that not just hurt, but, in fact, crippled them.
John Fricke is a national radio and TV host and conservative opinion commentator. His website is www.johnfricke.pedia.com.