just had an election and the Democrats pretty much won - except in NE
Washington where we live. Can we do something about that before
the next election?
What is the Problem?
A relatively few very conservative right wing ideologs have taken over
much of the Republican party. It didn't start out that way.
In the late 1960's and early 1970's the Republicans were
floundering. To solve this problem several think tanks were
set up. At first this worked reasonably well. Their
new ideas were conservative but political. Then someplace
along the way some of the more radical elements started bringing in
some very conservative fundamentalist religious groups. This
group is still in charge of the Republican Party today. They
have suffered a setback but still they are not gone. Their
columnists are still spewing their same versions of hate, fear, and
lies. Only now they are adding excuses as to why they lost
Many of their most rabid supporters are very rich, very conservative,
and very comfortable with buying what they want whether it is by buying
votes or buying political favors. A prime example of this is
the real estate developer from New York who financed the recent
property rights initiatives in Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
When someone like this gets involved the issue becomes one of
pure ideology, there is no room for compromise - My Way or the
Highway!" A reasoned political debate would consider all the
issues, try to remedy the problems with the current laws, and there are
some, and come to a compromise that all can live with - perhaps even
agreeing to look at the problem in 5 or 10 years to correct any new
problems that might come up.
Who am I?
My name is Bryan Bremner. I was born and raised in Ferry
County. I grew up on a cattle ranch. I graduated
from Republic High School and then went to Washington State University.
I worked at several jobs across the country before coming back to
Washington State University for 27 years. I
retired from there and we moved to Republic where we are building a
Why do I want to get
involved with politics?
I grew up in a Republican family but it was a real "Compassionate
Conservative" upbringing rather than the recent "sound bite" of the
same name. In college and later I observed some of the
anti-war, anti-communist witch hunt protests but was not involved.
But I was moving away from my Republican heritage and moving
towards a Democratic viewpoint.
The first time I really said something was when I was talking to a
friend. This was during the early Clinton years when Hillary
was being viciously attacked the radical right. My friend
made some disparaging comment about Hillary. I still don't
know why, perhaps I was feed up with those attacks, but I lit into her.
"Of course Hillary supports the Presidents policies, that's
what husbands and wives do, they support each other. If you
don't like a policy, say what issues you have with it and a propose a
counter proposal. You definitely do not attack the person's
wife and family. " We parted on relatively friendly terms.
Several days later she called me up and asked me to come
over and talk to her. She apologized. She still
didn't like the Clinton health plan but the radical right attacks on
Hillary were wrong and she should not have repeated them. It
is possible to talk to a "normal" conservative and convince them that the
radical right is leading them astray.
The second real turning point was more recently in Republic.
It was just at the beginning of the debate over a higher
gasoline tax. I was talking to someone in a store and a third
party joined us and began complaining about "sending our gas tax money
over to Seattle to fix a bridge." I hadn't lived in
Washington long at the time and wasn't familiar with the issue.
I knew something was wrong with the argument but I didn't
have the facts to know what.
Several months after this - after the issue was pretty well
settled, the Democratic Central Committee passed out a sheet comparing
the gas tax collected by all the counties and the taxes returned by the
state to the counties. For every dollar that is collected in
Ferry County, five dollars is returned back to the county by the state.
Not a bad return for that "bridge in Seattle." The
only problem was that I didn't have the information when I needed it
and the Democratic Party didn't get out the information in time to
counter the radical right ideologs who take every opportunity to oppose
any tax they can.
What am I proposing?
- A central depository of radical right statements and
liberal replies. This can be a web site.
- Someone to maintain and update this depository, a webmaster.
- Several people, at least one in each area, perhaps called
editors, to scan the local media and sent articles, letters to the
editors, columns, editorials, etc. to the webmaster.
- A larger number of people, perhaps called writers, several for each editor, who
will send letters to the editor in their own area.
- The editor for each area will be responsible
for preparing each letter to the editor. Anyone can write the
letter but the editor is responsible. Letters in progress may
be stored on the web page to invite helpful comments from a wider area.
The final submission should be given to the webmaster so that
others can either submit the same letter or get ideas to write their
own letter which is localized for their own area.
- I foresee this project covering Pend Oreille, Stevens,
Ferry, Okanogan, and perhaps Lincoln counties. I don't see
Ferry County as needing more than one area but larger counties like
Okanogan might, perhaps one for Omak-Okanogan and one for
Tonasket-Oroville. A larger area would rapidly become
unmanageable, and cities like Spokane have different political problems.
Why do this?
Starting in the 1970's the Republican Party has been doing a really
good job of getting their message out. Conservative groups
like the Farm Bureau, the Association of Washington Business, and local activists very
often have articles, letters to the editor, etc., in local papers, or
at least they do in the Republic News-Miner. Democrats have
not. We need to get our message out and we don't have
numerous think tanks bankrolled by rich companies and individuals to do
it for us. We need to do this ourselves. I also
think that it would be much more effective if our message were
presented by someone in the community who can refer to local events.
How do we know what to say?
You can break this down into two parts, what policies do we support and
how do we get our message across. The Republicans have been
very vocal on the first part; they don't think that Democrats have any
ideas, or at least that's what they tell everyone. Are they
right? Does the state Democratic Party have a
platform? Does the national Democratic
Party have a platform? Well they do. the 2004 Democratic
National Platform has 39 pages, and he Charter and Bylaws are another
22 pages. The 2006 Washington State Democratic Platform has 19
pages plus two pages of Executive Summary. Do most
Democrats agree with them and work for them? How can you?
These are not platforms, they are molecular level analyzes of
every splinter of every plank. To enter the discussion at
the local level you need specific details of local problems or broad
values that can be applied at almost every level, not a huge shopping
list. The Democratic Party Web site lists a 6-point plan for
2006, it consists of 1) Honest Leadership and Open Government, 2) Real
Security, 3) Energy Independence, 4) Economic Prosperity and
Educational Excellence, 5) A Healthcare System that Works for Everyone,
and 6) Retirement Security. George Lakoff in Thinking Points
lists 6 fundamental values, 1) Fairness, 2) Freedom, 3) Equality, 4)
Responsibility, 5) Integrity, and 6) Security. Rahm Emanuel and
Bruce Reed in The Plan: Big Ideas for America list 5 major ideas:
The proposals of James Carville and Paul Begala in Take it Back are organized slightly differently
but are very similar. A fuller description of all of these can be found
on my web site, www.homepage.mac.com/bryanbremner/index.html, under
Politics, Religion, etc.
- A new social contract with the citizens of America
- Universal citizen service
- Universal college access
- Universal retirement savings
- Universal children's health care
- A return to fiscal responsibility and an end to corporate
- Tax reform to help those who aren't wealthy build wealth
- A new strategy to win the war on terror
- A hybrid economy that cuts America's gasoline use in half
The Ferry County Democratic Central Committee issued a Statement of Principles in 2000 which is not too bad
Until the state and county democratic organizations come out with
specific statements I would just use the local issues and
frame rebuttals using the methods of Lakoff. It should be noted
that the books of Emanuel and Reed and Carville and Begala and the
platforms sometimes use conservative phraseology to express their
ideas. This must be changed.
How do we get our message across?
At first I had no idea. Then
in one of my first county Central Committee meetings the Chair said
that he still had a few of these little books that we might find
useful. Fine, they were cheap, so I bought one. It was, "Don't Think of an Elephant"
by George Lakoff. It was short, well written, and to the point.
I was amazed: a political writer who talked about scientific
evidence, told how you could evaluate statements and do your own
analysis of a position. I found it the clearest description that
I have ever seen of why conservatives (especially religious
fundamentalists conservatives) and liberals / progressives take the
positions they do on issues, and why voters will agree with the
positions of Democrats on the issues but vote for a Republican in the
In an extremely brief overview, Lakoff breaks political discussion into
four factors: Framing, metaphor, family philosophy, and
digress, for the last year or so I have been taking notes on the books
that I have read. These notes are a sort of blog on my web site,
www.homepage.mac.com/bryanbremner/index.html . My notes on the
Lakoff books are under the Book Reports link, down to the Political/Religious heading, and then to the author. My notes
cover only the major topics, if you want
the details, read his books.
The people we want to convince are the ones that Lakoff calls
biconceptuals. They have aspects of both Strict Father and
Nurturant Parent. We need to frame our arguments in terms that
are favorable to us, to use metaphors that they respond to, and to show
how the nurturant parent model that we are supporting, fits with their
- Framing: The
context in which the subject occurs. Two examples are the Death Tax and
Tax Relief. If you use these terms you have already lost the
argument. Death Tax implies a tax on a dead person.
An alternative wording, Inheritance Tax, implies a tax on the proceeds a rich person
inherits from a super rich dead relative. It only taxes the super
rich and it is similar to an income tax. Another
alternative wording from the liberal viewpoint would be the Paris
Hilton Tax, she really needs that extra billion. Tax Relief
taxes are bad and you need to be relieved from paying them. A
more realistic view is that taxes are what we pay for the privilege of
living in our country and having the roads, schools, police, military,
and all the other benefits of being an American citizen. If you
don't want to pay your fair share, move to some other country and see
how you like it -- I'm staying.
- Metaphor: The description of one
event or thing by referring to another event or thing. The linking is
dependent on repetition and is largely unconscious. If you
link a concept with "Motherhood and Apple Pie" enough, pretty soon that
concept will seem "warm and fuzzy", sort of like the conditioning of
- Family Philosophy:
Not always but often reflects the family you grew up in.
Lakoff breaks family philosophies into two polar opposites.
Most individual philosophies are some combination of aspects from
both sides. He calls one the Strict Father Morality and the other
the Nurturant Parent Morality. Conservatives tend to cluster at
the Strict Father end and liberals tend to cluster at the Nurturant
- Diversity: Both
conservatives and liberals are diverse in their positions. In the
late 1950's the Republicans were badly split. A group got
together around William F. Buckley, Jr. and others. Their first
success was the selection of Barry Goldwater as a Presidential
candidate in 1964. He didn't win but they did not give up.
Now there is a weekly meeting with Grover Norquist presiding.
They debate the issues and try to come to a consensus. The
Democrats are all over the map and no one is really trying to reach a
consensus. Lakoff identifies six different types of progressives (Elephant,
page 14). While almost all of us agree with many points that they
propose, many of us do not agree with some of their more radical positions.
And they all think that they represent the "true" progressive
values. We welcome all but we cannot let any specific group write
blank checks in our name.
To repeat, check out my Book Report, then read "Don't Think of an Elephant!" (120 pages) or his new book, "Thinking Points"
(150 pages) and if you want to go into more detail read
more of Lakoff's books. Steps in responding to a "Radical Right" comment
would be to check the web site and see if there is already a suitable reply and if not come up
with an approach, check it out with the Democratic policy ideas, try to
construct (frame) your reply using Lakoff's approach. You would then send your
reply back to the webmaster (via an editor) where it would be posted for
several days so that others can comment on it and then you send it to a
local paper. It is important that the final article (letter) that
appears in the paper be sent back to the webmaster so that others can
reuse it or support it without contradicting any of the points.
Whoa There! What does this stuff have to do with politics?
learn by linking things together. A baby nursing is learning that
warmth, being held, and food all go together. As adults we might call
this love, for pre-verbal infants, it just is. Many other things are
learned, for example stove, hot, pain. Lakoff calls these metaphors.
At first these are fairly simple and expand by simple addition, like
say a favorite blankie. As a child matures these simple metaphors
merge and join into much more complex concepts. To see this in action,
try holding a squirming four year old - thats freedom, try giving him a
single piece of candy while giving his sister two - thats justice. The
important thing is that these linkages must be repeated to be
permanently learned. One of the easiest ways to extend a metaphor is
to link it to existing metaphors. This is what Lakoff would call
framing. These two concepts, metaphor and framing, constitute the
first part of our task. We must get our message out there, we must get
it out there often, and we must link it to values that most people
Lakoff's nurturant family vs. strict father
philosophies gives us a tool to evaluate policy alternatives.
conservatives have become very proficient at hiding their intentions
behind misleading terminology, Clean Air Initiative, No Child Left
Behind, etc. When policy elements are compared with the
and goals of these two philosophies it becomes much clearer just what
the intentions of the proposers are and how their proposed changes
would effect the citizens of our country. The idea of diversity
is perhaps the least important factor but it can have immense practical
importance. It is possible that the candidacy of Ralph Nader made
possible the election of Bush in 2000. We can't read major groups
out of the Democratic Party just because they don't agree with us 100%
but we also can't let any one group completely control our agenda.
We also must not stand by and watch conservatives vilify groups
in an effort to divide and conquer. Almost all progressive
activist groups have been attacked by conservatives, Tree Huggers for
environmental groups, Nazi (Commie) Lovers for the ACLU, and the list
goes on and on. We must not let these attacks drive wedges
Why should I start this project, shouldn't somebody else, perhaps the state Democratic Party, be doing it?
Wonderful, but as far as I know nobody else has volunteered. We
are living in the upper right corner of Washington with a lot of vocal
radical rights, a fair number of non-vocal progressives, and quite a
few silent biconceptuals who, when under a radical right barrage, think
that everyone here is conservative - resistance is futile.
Political comments from liberal Coasties are instantly
rejected. Anything we do must be identifiably local. If anyone has a better idea, please share. If
anyone knows of someone who would like the experience of managing a web
site, tell them they have a job, pay is a little low but it would be a
good learning experience.
Is this strictly about politics?
Yes, but. I personally believe that most Republicans in this area
are nice people who are concerned with our state and country. On
a one-on-one basis most of us can sit down with most of them and agree
on many issues. The problems arise when individuals of either
party try to differentiate themselves from others and take radical or
extreme positions. Unfortunately in the last 20 or so years a
number of far right conservative Republicans have joined with a number
of conservative fundamentalist Christian groups. This alliance
has injected aspects of fundamentalist Christianity into the political
arena totally ignoring what the Constitution says about religion.
To understand and counter many of their political points you must
understand their relationship to religion. Most of their
political-religious arguments are centered in two areas, the family and
evolution-creationism. Their definition of family is expressed in
their views on womens rights, abortion, gay rights and a few others.
Their beliefs on evolution are fine but when they try to specify
what schools can and cannot teach they are restricting our freedom and
reducing our nation's ability to compete economically in the future.
In these areas I believe that we have a duty to speak out.
In my understanding of the Constitution it seems to say that we
all have the right to worship and believe as we please. However
we do not have the right to use the mechanisms of government to
proselytize for a particular religion or religious viewpoint.
OK, lets go over this again, exactly who would be doing what?
I am volunteering to host the web site (act as webmaster) which would
originally be at my homepage.mac web site. If there are any
volunteers or suggestions for a better web site please say so. If
anyone gets an idea for a good article they should send it to the
webmaster, either directly or through an editor. If it is a
response to an article they should send a copy of the article, if it is
a "just because" article - state what you are trying to do or say.
Assuming the originator is a writer she should work with an
editor to get as good an article as possible. If the originator
is an editor she should try to find a writer who would be interested
and work with him. The draft article will then be sent to the
webmaster for inclusion on the web site. The webmaster will post
the draft article and notify the editors of the new post by email.
The writer will examine the responses and with the editor prepare
a final draft for submission to the paper. The writer will have
final authority over the wording of the article and will submit the
article to the paper. The writer will also submit the final copy
to the webmaster. Other writers or editors can then submit the
article - changing it as necessary for local conditions - to their
papers. Again, any articles submitted to a paper should be sent
to the webmaster. If they are identical they will just be marked
as, "also submitted to -paper name- on -date-".
Why do we need all these people?
Two basic reasons. Newspapers do not want letters from the same
people over and over. They will, at least the Spokesman Review
will, call to check that you wrote the letter and not someone using
your name. Local newspaper readers will very quickly recognize the name
if multiple letters come from the person. If they disagree they
will just ignore new ones - "Its just Susan again, no need to read it,
I know what she is saying." Also if someone is really caught up
in a topic they tend to skip over some basic points. Everyone
needs an editor.
If this seems like something that you would like to be involved with please contact me at Bryan@CurlewKeep.name or 509-775-0162.
Tell me again, what would a writer do?
A writer would keep their eyes and ears open for topics that need
bringing to peoples attention. Watch the media, friends and
neighbors, people on the street. When you find a topic either
write a response or recommend it to your editor. Your editor may
suggest a topic. If you write a response, work with your editor
to polish it.
And what would an editor do?
An editor would also keep an eye open for topics. When he finds
one he can ask a writer who may be knowledgeable in the area to write
an reply. He would then work with the writer to get a good reply.
If the topic came from a newspaper article or letter to the
editor, both the original article and the reply should be emailed to
the webmaster. It is much better to include the text within the
body of the email rather than as an attachment. Not all word
processors are compatible with other computers but almost all email
text comes across well. Most email programs can accept simple
formatting, bold, italics, large type, etc. and that is typically all
that newspapers will accept. Before you do too much work on a
topic, check out the web site. There may be an article on this
topic already, perhaps it could be used with only minor changes for
your local area.
After letting this "sit" for a while I realize that there are at least
3 problems. I said nothing about media other than newspapers.
Where I live in Ferry county we really don't have any other media
, a small taped religious station and a rebroadcast of an Omak station,
but nothing local. The second problem became obvious when I
re-read Lakoff's Thinking Points, I realized I had fallen into his Trap #9, The Reactive Trap,
this proposal is all about reaction. We need to reframe the
arguments in our terms and propose new solutions. Being from the
upper far right corner of Washington we probably won't have much luck
changing policies in Olympia or Washington DC but we can give it a try.
The third problem is a little bit more delicate. I just watched a speech by Kevin Phillips, author of American Theocracy
(see my review). In the speech, even more that the book, he draws
parallels between the Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, the smaller
Dutch Empire, and the British Empire and the current American Empire.
He documents very disturbing parallels between the first four and
our current American experience. In very brief he blames the
turning inward, apocalyptic beliefs, and growing political power of a
single powerful religion for much of the decline and fall of these
empires. I tend to agree with him but we have to be very careful
to avoid the appearance of being anti-religion. We need to attack
the excesses of individuals and show how they violate the fundamental
message of Christianity, of Christ, and the founding documents of the United States. I have difficulties in
supporting my arguments because I was not brought up in a religious
family and I can't quote chapter and verse from the Bible.