Recently, I received an email from you which proclaimed that you once again intended to run for the United States Congress in the 6th district of Pennsylvania for the seat currently occupied by Jim Gerlach. Forgive me, but I didn’t jump up and do cartwheels
upon hearing the news. The first thought that crossed my mind at the time was: “Why?” Since then I’ve had the opportunity to give the prospect considerable thought. My second impression of the news is this: “Why?”
Exactly what is it, Manan, that you think should inspire working people based upon your last campaign against Mr. Gerlach? And why in heaven’s name should anyone expect that it would turn out differently this time? And if, by some miracle, it did turn out differently, what would that do to better the lives of the people in the 6th Congressional District? Judging by your last campaign, not a damn thing.
Mr. Niles Visits the Kutztown Democratic Club
I had a bird’s-eye view in advance of your last campaign of just how pathetic it would be when Ed Niles was dispatched to the Kutztown Democratic Club last August to unveil the proposed fiasco. Now understand, Manan, the people in attendance that night might be considered a who’s-who of Kutztown area liberals. At the very least, each and every one of them would consider themselves a progressive. So what inspiring campaign plan were they treated to that night?
First, Mr. Niles opened with a statement that “we’re not going to take a hostile tone against Mr. Gerlach.” Say what? My hand shot up immediately. I told Mr. Niles that Mr. Gerlach would most definitely take a hostile tone against Manan and that it would work – especially if it wasn’t met in kind by Manan. Mr. Niles disagreed citing the exchanges that had already taken place between you and Mr. Gerlach. Mr. Niles thought that you were winning because in Mr. Gerlach’s attacks on you he had been telling lies and you had pointed that out in your responses. I almost fell off my chair listening to this crap. Where does the Democratic party get these guys who can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory over and over? Don’t answer, Manan. It’s a rhetorical question. I already know the answer: The DCCC.
Before we go any further lets get something straight for your next campaign. Manan, either you are hostile to what the Republicans and the right wing are doing to this country, or you are not. If you are not, please step down now and spare us another DCCC timid, stand-for nothing crap campaign. But if you are hostile to what they are about then you need to show it. Don’t give the public the impression that you’re here because the Democratic Party needed someone to run. They need to believe that you are here out of conviction, and I hope that you are. You need to be passionate. You need to put the real Manan Trivedi out on public display and not the poll-driven caricature that the DCCC will concoct for you. You will resonate if you will be you and not what someone tells you the polls demand. In addition, you need the public to see that you are struggling to hold your barely concealed contempt for Mr. Gerlach and his ilk in check. Don’t take a hostile tone? Hogwash.
Mr. Niles is totally wrong when he contends that you are winning the exchanges with Mr. Gerlach because you are pointing out that he is lying. This seems almost naive to me. Elections are not about truth telling. It is not a contest to see which politician is lying more. If it were, Republicans would never win. Elections are about control. Mr. Gerlach attacks – Manan defends. There is only one possible outcome to that scenario. Gerlach wins. Every single time. Why? He is in control. He throws bombs. You respond to his bombs. He’s in control of what’s being talked about. He’s keeping you away from his vulnerabilities. He’s deciding what the playing field of the campaign will be. He’s keeping you occupied. And he did this right up until election day.
It’s amazing to me that it’s beyond the capacity of DCCC to see what to do in these cases. Chris Van Holland, who was in charge of the Congressional campaign when you ran, gets the all-time award for the most incompetent, message-free, meaningless congressional campaign ever run. Don’t believe me, Manan? Then complete this sentence from that campaign: If the Democratic Congress is re-elected they will…… You can’t. Nobody can. The voters didn’t have a clue what the Democrats would do if they returned them to office. Why? Because the Democratic candidates never said. You can’t say the same about the Republicans. They said what they would do loud and clear: Stop the spending; go after Obamacare. You and I might not like the message, but they had one. So the election became a contest in the public mind between a party that had convictions against a party that either had none or were afraid to say what they were.
So how to handle the bomb-throwing Mr. Gerlach. Refute-Reframe -Launch. It’s always the same formula every time. I don’t know why Democrats aren’t forced to memorize this. And know this, Manan. The second most important part of any campaign is these spats between politicians. Only TV ads are more important. People like spitting contests between politicians. They pay attention to them. That’s why Reframe and Launch are so important. All the time on press releases, position papers and press conferences are basically wasted because the public never sees or hears them. So when I say to you that your campaign had no meaning, you may take great umbrage because you know you made this position paper or that press release and took a strong stand on an issue. If they weren’t heard by the voters, they didn’t happen. If a tree falls in the woods and no one was there to hear it, did it make a noise? There’s only two places you’ll be heard. In the pissing contests with Gerlach and on your TV ads. And those two must be coordinated to pound your message home to the voters. Your last campaign failed miserably on this score.
So lets get back to how to use Refute-Reframe-Launch against Mr. Gerlach. The first thing you need to do is throw the poll-driven clowns out of the room. You need to spend a little down-time with yourself. Great campaigns come from within. They are not handed down to you by the DCCC. Take some time for reflection. Take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide what means the most to you. Make a list of the things that you despise about Jim Gerlach and his right-wing ideology. Put that list in order of importance to you. Then pick the top three items on that list. Make sure that your convictions are strong on these three items. Once you have made your choices, resolve that these and only these are what you will be discussing in your campaign.
Let me give you an example as if I were running against Gerlach. My list would be as follows: 1) Jim’s entire jobs program for this country is the Bush Tax Cuts. 2) Jim is devoted to destroying Medicare through Paul Ryan’s Voucher program 3) Jim doesn’t want the Rich to pay their fair share. OK. Those are my three-not yours. I understand. But Refute-Reframe-Launch works for you no matter what your list is. I don’t care what Jim’s first bomb is. Let’s say he says that Manan wasn’t in the district enough for the last 8 years. (Refute) That’s because I was serving my country over seas in the Armed Forces. (Keep your refutation as short as this even though you might have much more to say. You don’t want him to control the subject of the conversation). (Reframe) Jim wants to talk about what I’ve been doing the last 8 years because he doesn’t want you thinking about what he’s been doing for those same years (turning the spotlight on him). (Launch your bomb) If I were Jim I’d be trying to change the subject as well. He’s devoted himself to making sure the rich are paying ever lower taxes. He tries to cover his actions with the fig-leaf that these are the job-creators. Well Jim, it’s been 11 years of the Bush tax cuts. Where are the jobs? I will not vote to extend the Bush tax cuts. In fact I will propose returning to Clinton-era taxation. You know, that period when we had actual prosperity. (getting your position out in the midst of a spat is the most effective way). Who is Jim working for? Ask Jim why the rich shouldn’t pay their fair share? (Always end by asking the public for an explanation from Jim. He’ll either have to answer or avoid the question. Either way you are setting the focus of the discussion and the public’s attention.)
I don’t care what Jim launches at you. It’s always Refute, Reframe, Launch. He could say that he doesn’t like the blue hat that you’re wearing. The formula’s the same. (refute) It may surprise you to know that I don’t need Jim Gerlach’s approval on my choice of hats. I like my hat just fine. (reframe) Jim wants to talk hats so we don’t get around to his abandonment of seniors in the 6th by endorsing Paul Ryans Medicare destruction bill which privatizes medicare and puts seniors at the mercy of private providers to use their vouchers. (launch) I regard Medicare as a contract between the government and the people. It is not subject to being taken apart. Ask Jim why he thinks it’s ok to renege on this contract. Ask Jim why he won’t stand up for seniors in the 6th.
Will Manan Go Where Jim Won’t?
The rest of Mr. Niles’ presentation to the Kutztown Democrats that night was even more disgusting. We were told that Manan had decided to go with two issues. First, he said that Manan would call for a 5% pay cut for Congress with the proceeds to go to lower the deficit. What proceeds Manan? We do know that we’re talking about only 500 people here, don’t we?
So let me get this straight, Manan. You and your DCCC nitwits looked around at the state of things like record-setting home foreclosures, historically high unemployment, an economy that was dead in the water, unending wars, unregulated BP disasters, and you thought that the thing to spend your TV money on was a 5% cut in Congressional pay? A totally symbolic gesture? What the hell is wrong with you people? Do you imagine that moms and dads sit around at the kitchen table after putting the kids to bed and when they begin struggling with their mountain of bills pause and look off wistfully into the distance saying: “If only someone would cut cut the pay of Congress by 5%. That would change everything.” Are you insane? Was there a contest in your office to see who could concoct the most irrelevant, timid, hand-wringing piece-of-crap campaign possible? Was this the winning entry?
What’s really upsetting about this stand and the TV money that was spent on it is what is says about you. I’m a great believer in ” the buck stops here”. I can complain about Mr. Niles until the cows come home. But the fact of the matter is that this was okay-ed by you. You had the last say, because you are the candidate. It was a complete slap in the face to the voters in the 6th. It shows that you have no respect for the voters. It says to them that I, Manan Trivedi, do not need to stand up and take on the entrenched interests on behalf of the people of the 6th. I do not need to stick my neck out for a jobs program for the unemployed. I don’t need to campaign on my plan to address the record-setting rates of home foreclosure in Pennsylvania. I don’t have to annoy the powers that be by advocating a public option to put at least some reform into Obama’s “ode to the insurance companies” health care bill. I do not need to offend the rich by demanding that they pay their fair share of the burden of running this country. I do not need to chance the animosity of Wall Street by calling for increased regulation of business in the wake of the BP disaster. No, none of that.
In the face of all the hurt that’s going on out there, you thought that the voters of the 6th were so stupid that all you had to do was go on TV with some purely symbolic, meaningless pap about a congressional pay cut. Add to that your winsome life story, some testimonials from your friends and some less than detailed statements against the privatization of Social Security (something which should be a given for a Democrat). Were you surprised when you found that the public wasn’t buying this load of gutless crap? I wasn’t. I knew this was a Gerlach landslide waiting to happen as soon as I heard it. I tried to get the liberals who knock on doors and make the phone calls to stand up to this campaign. Like their party, Democratic liberals don’t stand up to anything. You and Barack know this as well, so you ignore us. As Rahm Emanuel says, “Liberal activists are f**king retarded.”
Your last campaign violated the first and cardinal rule for all challengers. You must go somewhere that Jim Gerlach won’t. You didn’t. Let me explain. If one of your timid, play-it-safe ideas actually caught fire, there was no problem in Jim joining in to blunt it. So if your 5% Congressional pay cut became popular in the 6th, Jim could chime in with me too, and propose a 10% cut. There is nothing in his record, ideology or base to stop it. Jim, of course, didn’t have to bother because an idea of a 5% cut couldn’t possibly catch fire when there were so many bigger fish to fry. George Bush did this to Al Gore in the 2000 election. Al proposed a Medicare Prescription Drug program. George responded with his own Medicare Prescription Drug program thus blunting Al’s anticipated advantage from this stand.
While I applaud your anti-privatization stand on Social Security, it also fell short of the first and cardinal rule for all challengers. I asked Mr. Niles that night if Mr. Gerlach was on record as being for Social Security privatization. He said no but that John Boehner was. I asked him if Manan was running against Jim Gerlach or John Boehner. He looked at me as if I had two heads and had just stepped off the UFO. Here again, you created a situation where Jim could follow and blunt you if need be. The race wasn’t close enough for him to have to worry about it.
When you make your list of the 3 issues you will emphasize in the next election you should examine them. You need to ask yourself: Can Jim go here? If he can follow you on all three issues then you do not present a vision that is sufficiently different from his. Maybe that makes you the wrong candidate. You need at least one major issue where Jim cannot follow you. Two is better. Why? Because the public operates on the viewpoint of “better the devil we know than the devil we don’t”. That’s one of the major reasons that they return 98% of the incumbents to office. They know that what they have could always get worse. It’s your job to present a compelling alternative to the voters. It’s your job to force some very tough choices on Jim Gerlach. You need to make him choose between your compelling alternative and pleasing his base. One of the goals of your campaign must be to create discord between Jim and his ultra conservative base. Discord leads to a lessening of enthusiasm by his base and that leads to lower voter turnout for Jim.
If I Were Manan’s Campaign Manager (Dream On, Chuck)
Okay, Manan. If I’m in charge of your campaign, the first thing I do is tell you the truth whether you like it or not. If you don’t like hearing the truth you can always fire me, surround yourself with yes-men and hire the DCCC to run your campaign. You’ll be more comfortable and you’ll lose. I’m not here to make you comfortable . I’m here to make you win.
Step # 1- We will be taking a hostile tone against Mr. Gerlach and his policies that are destroying the middle class.
Anger - Why have the Democrats ceded the angry voter to the Tea Party? Answer: Because there is nowhere else for the angry voter to go. The Democrats don’t provide a place. Watch MSNBC enough and it will dawn on you that Democrats would like to make fun of the Tea Party, ridicule them and call them stupid rather than actually compete for their voters. This is the same tactic that they used against George W. Bush. Like Bush, the Tea Party routinely kicks the crap out of the Democratic Party. Whether it is tax cuts for the rich, budget negotiations, or raising the debt-ceiling those dumb-assed Tea Partiers make the Democrats look like weak-kneed clowns.
The Manan Trivedi campaign will cut into the Tea Party vote. Here’s How:
Tune in next month and read Chuck’s 10 point plan for Manan Trevedi to defeat Jim Gerlach