How Obama Won the Upcoming Debate

For seasoned political observers on both sides of the aisle, it is not particularly surprising that the media's narrative for Wednesday's presidential debate has already been written.  If Obama were to show up in a clown suit and flip-flops, the media narrative would be that his unconventional attire was a daring and brilliant move designed to challenge the status quo and to reveal his human side, or possibly a laudable effort to make politics more interesting to children.  Romney, of course, would be cast as the dull guy who dressed like an accountant and who failed to reach the audience with his talk of budgets and debt and restoring the private sector. 

Wardrobe choices aside, by Thursday morning, as long as Obama shows up for the debate, the narrative will be that Obama has closed the deal with the electorate.  After that narrative is repeated enough, it stands a good chance of becoming reality.

So the superficial answer to how Obama won the upcoming debate is that liberals control the news media that shape the thinking of voters in the middle, the ones who do not define themselves as liberal or conservative and who supposedly are still making up their minds.  The deeper -- and more significant -- answer is that conservatives do not understand political strategy, and the left does.

The conservative idea of political strategy is to figure out how to win elections in spite of the fact that the left controls the news media.  Conservatives will fuss and fume at biased questions from the liberal moderators, and they will rail at the biased coverage after the debate, but they do not seem to have the foggiest notion of what to do about it other than to vote for conservative candidates on Election Day.  For conservatives, political strategy and election strategy are the same thing. 

Conservatives mount strong efforts to undo the damage from media bias, but there is no serious talk in conservative circles about long-term strategies for gaining control of the media and using the media to build the conservative base.  Left-wing bias in the media is just accepted as a constant, as immutable, almost as if it is a law of physics.  The option of having conservative moderators hitting Obama with hard questions never even seemed to be an option.  For the Romney-Ryan campaign, the key questions in the current election are how to point out Obama's record without being accused of negativity by Obama's protectors in the media and how to present their positions so as not to get painted as extremists. 

The left's political strategy, on the other hand, has been to gain control of the sources of information that shape the culture and, in so doing, to determine the long-term direction of the nation.  The strategy of targeting the cultural institutions came out of the Frankfurt School in the early 1920s, and it has worked.  Liberals realized long ago that being out of elective office is not the same as being out of power, because they saw that real political power lies in the cultural institutions that inform the nation's political discourse.  So, even after conservative landslides like those in 1980, 1994, and 2010, liberals have taught our children and reported the news the next day.  The result is that Barack Obama, who has presided over catastrophic deficits, the downgrading of America's credit rating, stubbornly high levels of unemployment, and a chaotic foreign policy, is within striking distance of a second term.   

It should be obvious that America will continue its descent into socialism as long as voters are immersed in liberal ideology in our schools and when they tune in to the news.  Elections will determine only the speed of that descent.  Yet there is no long-term conservative strategy to do what the left has done, to gradually gain control of the educational and news institutions.  Granted, there are conservative footholds such as talk radio, Fox News, and the internet, but for the most part, those outlets reach those who are already conservative.  Conservatives never even dream of a day when liberal candidates are peppered with questions by conservative reporters on the nightly news, when network anchors hint darkly at the extremism of liberal candidates, or when schoolchildren celebrate the victory of conservative candidates with songs.

Perhaps the fundamental reason, then, for America's precarious state is that conservatives, by nature, mind our own business.  We have been too busy taking care of our families and our businesses and running our own lives to devote much time to meddling in what the next generation of voters will be taught, or in changing the direction of the news media.  Obama, on the other hand, won the upcoming debate because earlier generations of liberals made it their business to make sure that, one day, leftists like him could not lose.

Besides, Obama gives people free cell phones.

Dr. Tim Daughtry is chairman and CEO of Concord Bridge Consulting and co-author of Waking The Sleeping Giant: How Mainstream Americans Can Beat Liberals At Their Own Game.

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