With the announcement that John McCain will not be voting in favor of the Graham-Cassidy bill that would repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act, conservatives raced to Twitter and talk radio phone lines to express their outrage. “Woe is us! John McCain has ‘betrayed’ us again!”
Conservatives shout these words into the ether and to those who are paid to listen to (and stir up) their rage. Sadly, conservatives did not take to Twitter or flood the congressional phone lines in support of Graham-Cassidy in the days leading up to McCain’s “betrayal.” It seems that in the policy battles where the stakes are highest, conservatives want to complain about the establishment rather than complain to the establishment.
The primary reason for this isn’t that conservatives don’t want to fight, or that it’s hard to know when to fight. It’s because conservatives have to fight on so many political battlefields at once. Just this past week, we’ve seen many political and pop culture battlefronts where conservatives have had to engage.
As always, there is the Trump front. How many resources were conservatives forced to expend in order to defend the president’s discussion of the mythical African nation of Nambia? Nevermind that there is a country called Namibia to which the president was expressly referring. The Left were ready with their “look at how dumb Trump is” memes and conservatives were more than ready to spend time and resources responding to something that would best have been ignored. Mockery only works when you give it legitimacy by acknowledging it and conservatives fell over themselves to do that when they chose to fight on this front.
Added to the Trump gaffe front was the Left’s love affair with anti-semitism. While the mainstream press does everything it can to connect Trump with Nazis, it is the Left that has and has always had the real problem with anti-semitism. The latest example of the Left’s casual anti-semitism was Valerie Plame Wilson’s casual linking on Twitter to an argument that Jews were responsible for America’s wars. To those of us who endured over a decade of references to evil “neocons” who are behind all of the ills of the world, this flippant anti-semitism was nothing new. The Left is rife with anti-semitism in the guise of peace movements and divestment movements. Conservatives were rightly incensed by Valerie Plame Wilson’s comments and were quick in their attacks against her.
Add to these events the articles insinuating that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was having the government pay for her private jet, Maxine Waters’ continuing cries to impeach Trump, and the anti-Trump rant that was the Emmys, and you can see that there are any number of places for conservatives to use their political capital in frivolous spats.
Frivolous? Yes, frivolous.
Every one of these events is a distraction from what is really important. The articles on DeVos are not about who funds her travel and security—for the record she’s footing the bill—they are about how she’s moving against the star chamber Title IX kafkaesque shadow courts that were established under the Obama administration. If the media can undermine DeVos’ credibility, they can win on an issue that might disproportionately affect minority students and that removes constitutional protections from all students.
But manipulative attempts to protect Title IX non-trials weren’t the biggest battle that conservatives were being distracted from fighting. That battle was the battle to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While conservatives were tweeting away about Valerie Plame Wilson, my twitter feed was filled with Leftists sharing the phone number of the congressional switch board, places to text that would send anti-repeal faxes to key legislators, and links to the “Indivisible Guidebook.” While conservatives were barking at squirrels, the Left was orchestrating a targeted attack on repeal legislation.
The Left has finally learned the most valuable lesson that political science teaches about how politicians behave. Politicians first and foremost respond to the reelection incentive.
Though David Mayhew wrote about this phenomenon in the 1970s, most organizers on the Left and Right ignored it. They trusted elite pressure from the media, activists, donors, and party organizations to do the work necessary to get their preferred policies passed or scuttled. It’s more lucrative for voters to think that your radio show is the means of shaping opinion than it is to spend your time tweet storming phone numbers to the public. It’s more profitable to complain without solutions than it is to spend time in the trenches. The Occupy Movement taught the Left this lesson, but the Right has yet to learn it.
Politicians have no better means of knowing how to vote than from direct communication from constituents. Let me repeat that. Politicians have no better means of knowing how to vote than from direct communication from constituents. They don’t vote based on ideology or promises, they vote based on pressure. Mobilization matters, it’s all that matters.
No better example of how the Left is willing to genuinely mobilize, rather than complain for fun and profit, exists than Jimmy Kimmel’s personalized and political “kill the bill-athon.” He was doing more than complaining, he was telling people who agreed with him what to do. He was telling them to call Capitol Hill and flood the phone lines. He even told them which offices to target: Heller, Murkowski, Collins, Moore Capito, and McCain. He know this matters.
It’s right there in the “Indivisible Guidebook,” a guide of equal use to conservatives if they would only use it. Instead, conservatives are content to complain to the professional cash-servatives like Mark Levin and Ben Shapiro. Let me clue you in on something. The only time Ben Shapiro tweeted the congressional hotline was when he retweeted a Guy Benson joke that included the phone number to ABC executives. Shapiro is perfectly content to help his friends pay their mortgages by selling books filled with blank pages. His job, like the rest of media conservatism, is to complain about how bad things are. It’s what gets people listening and what brings them advertisers, but it isn’t what mobilizes change.
If conservative media were serious about repealing Obamacare, they’d be flooding my Twitter feed with contact information and multiple means of contacting my legislators. Instead, they are content to complain about being betrayed. Conservatives need to be more targeted in their efforts. I know that it’s a target-rich environment and that we want to shoot down every lie or exaggeration that the Left brings up, but we have to focus on the big ticket items and we have to shoot true. Instead of calling the Mark Levin show, or your own favorite host, try calling the congressional hotline. Let’s use more political capital on the important fights, and use less in skirmishes.