1/16/2006

Frameshop: How 'Swiftboating' Works, and What to Do About It

The issue the swiftboaters want to prove is this: a candidate who lies about his.. military record, cannot be trusted in office ..The only way to fully beat the swiftboaters is to frame the [debate] so that when a Democrat does get swiftboated, the voters see it as reason to support [him]

Frameshop: How 'Swiftboating' Works, and What to Do About It

...the word 'swiftboating' has become insider progressive jargon for 'political ad campaigns that smear Democratic war vets as traitors and enemies.'.. Only Republicans engage in swiftboating. It is a political tactic used for one purpose: to intimidate Democrats. ..As we head into the 2006 mid-term elections--a campaign season marked by an unprecedented number of military veterans running as Democrats--there will be more swiftboating campaigns launched by Republcans than hurricanes against the Gulf Coast. And many Democratic candidates faced with these assualts will lose the battle.

But how does swiftboating work? What is it about swiftboating that makes it so effective with Democrats? If we take some time now to consider this question, we might be able to find some effective solutions that will render swiftboating a thing of the past...

1- 'Swiftboating' Reframes Debate from Policy to the Person Criticizing Policy
.. When someone is swiftboated, the goal of the smear campaign is to take attention from the policy under attack and refocus it on the Democrat who threatens the GOP.
The Solution: Don't take the bait. [that solution did not work with Kerry -- law]

2 - 'Swiftboating' Works Because It Too Easily Leads to 'Debate'
In every swiftboat campaign, the swiftboaters have the advantage because they launch multiple attacks on the Democratic candidate's character, while the Democrat is constantly trying for one, tiny, definitive position. Take the case of John Kerry, for example. When attacked by the Swift Vets, Kerry's goal was to prove himself 100% free of all the charges leveled against him--to show himself 100% truthful in his view of his own combat history. On the other hand,.. [to the GOP swiftboaters] it didn't really matter if they proved Kerry 100% dishonest because all they really had to do was put his honesty up for debate..Ultimately, most Americans accepted the frame that Kerry's truthfulness was subject of a debate..

The Solution: Don't give them a debate.. [easier said than done -- law]

'Swiftboating' Works By Sending Democrats Chasing after the 'Magic Fact'
The worst part about being swiftboated has to be the frustration of not being able to find the one-definitive fact that convinces the public that the smear campaign is false. .. But in political debate, frames always trump facts... There are no 'magic facts' to free you from the swiftboaters. The only way to beat them, is to move the debate to another frame.

The Solution: Prepare in advance. Democrats running in 2008, sit down today and come up with a plan for how to frame the debate before, during and after you get swiftboated. Democrats in 2006, do the same. [Now there's good actionable advice! -- law]

Framing the debate will beat the swiftboaters. Slinging 'magic facts' at them will not.


How To Reframe: Strike First, Think Big
The only way to fully beat the swiftboaters is to frame the entire political campaign so that when a Democrat does get swiftboated, the voters see it as reason to support their candidacy. In other words, to beat the swiftboaters, Democrats need to reframe the entire conceptual reality of the debate. Think big--really big.

The issue the swiftboaters want to prove is this:

a candidate who lies about his/her military record, cannot be trusted in office.

That is the entire goal of the swiftboaters. As disc used above, they achieve this largely by luring the Democratic campaign to help them.

But what do Democrats want to prove in a swiftboat campaign? In what version of reality do the swiftboaters and all their deceitful slander actually accomplish the goals of a Democratic candidate?
...
More on that important topic in the next Frameshop post (at)

FRAMESHOP by Jeffrey Feldman

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