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December 10, 2012

Obama Encouraging Supporters To Randomly Phone Other Citizens To Tell Them Obama's Trying to Keep Middle Class Taxes Low or Something

So, this.

Aiming to bring public pressure on Republicans to back higher taxes for the rich in the “fiscal cliff” fight, the Obama-Biden campaign today began urging supporters to join a local, online phone bank to help the president blast the GOP.

In an email, supporters are directed to a “Call Tool” where they are provided with somebody to call. Include is a telemarketing-style script to read.

A successful effort will then be tabulated on a “leaderboard” of callers.

“Today you will be calling fellow supporters with a message about extending middle-class tax cuts. Your job is to lay out the choice Congress is facing on keeping taxes low for the middle class, and encourage supporters to call their representative. You will be able to provide all the information,” said the memo emblazoned with the Obama-Biden campaign emblem.

The proper reaction to this is ridicule and jeering. But that's only the proper reaction because we didn't think of this first. The best option -- doing this ourselves -- is closed off to us, so we should make fun of it.

I can think of a lot of good reasons for this sort of thing.

1. Work as Play. I think the Obama Minions cleaned our clocks on a very basic concept about human behavior: We will more readily pursue activities that seem like "play" than seem like "work."

Goofy as this is -- and it is goofy, I grant you, but it's goofy because people are goofy -- it gives people a "play" mode for political work. Which leads to the next point.

2. Many intense partisans feel that that the party is letting them down and not fighting hard enough unless it is constantly offering them new avenues for fighting. Offering them opportunities to fight has two important benefits: 1, you actually get people doing political work and keeping politically invested (remember, once you get someone to contribute even a dollar to a cause, or ten minutes of time, you've psychologically invested them in victory and this in turn will propel them to sacrifice even more for victory). 2, they will not carp about the party "rolling over" and "surrendering" and "giving up" and "refusing to fight" because you're offering them any number of fresh outlets for Keeping Up The Fight.

I think the purpose of this game is not persuasion of other voters, but the illusion of the opportunity to persuade other voters, which itself leads to increased morale among the True Believers.

And that's not nothing. I know a lot of conservatives right now are looking for ways to Fight, and get mad at me for not thinking of such ways (such as organizing an email campaign urging Boehner to get some backbone, etc.). No one likes losing, and many within a party will grow to hate the party if they see others accepting loss.

I do not know the actual value of this particular avenue for Fight Fight Fighting -- I expect it's quite low -- but I know it at least shows "We're not done yet" and "We've not yet begun to fight" and other such sentiments which are very important to the most committed, Fightiest partisans.

And the Democrats actually won, so this is just offered for those who can't even accept some time off after a victory but rather still want to do more for the cause.

Now, given the Republicans lost, I imagine this sort of thing would be even more psychically useful for a despondent party rank and file which is beginning to feel everything is hopeless (and a feeling of hopelessness leads directly to a lack of action and a grim acceptance of the status quo -- classic depression, of course).
Immediately post-election, a NYT article revealed that the Obama campaign had consulted a group of psychologists and psychiatrists about methods of animating their voters and possible potential voters.

The Obama campaign did not brag about this during the election -- it's off-putting to know a campaign is using head-shrinkers' ploys against oneself -- but after the election they let the cat out of the bag, that they had weaponized behavioral science.

This election season the Obama campaign won a reputation for drawing on the tools of social science. The book “The Victory Lab,” by Sasha Issenberg, and news reports have portrayed an operation that ran its own experiment and, among other efforts, consulted with the Analyst Institute, a Washington voter research group established in 2007 by union officials and their allies to help Democratic candidates.

Less well known is that the Obama campaign also had a panel of unpaid academic advisers. The group — which calls itself the “consortium of behavioral scientists,” or COBS — provided ideas on how to counter false rumors, like one that President Obama is a Muslim. It suggested how to characterize the Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in advertisements. It also delivered research-based advice on how to mobilize voters.

“In the way it used research, this was a campaign like no other,” said Todd Rogers, a psychologist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a former director of the Analyst Institute. “It’s a big change for a culture that historically has relied on consultants, experts and gurulike intuition.”

When asked about the outside psychologists, the Obama campaign would neither confirm nor deny a relationship with them...

And while most of them won't talk -- pretending they did very, very little, and that the only thing that moved votes was the Power of Obama's Detailed and Forward-Thinking Agenda -- others are more candid:


“A kind of dream team, in my opinion,” Dr. Fox said.

He said that the ideas the team proposed were “little things that can make a difference” in people’s behavior.

It seems to have worked. Or, I can't prove it worked, but the theory behind some of these ploys certainly seems solid enough for investigation and emulation.

Corporations spend a lot of money on marketing, and marketers' work is based largely on psychology. As I have no connection with the RNC, I can't say that we have no psychology-based marketing going on. In fact, I strongly doubt that we have none of that.

That said, it also seems to me that the Obamabots are using more of this stuff, taking it more seriously, always trying to think of new ways to keep their voters involved and psychologically invested.

You may say this is creepy. I would also say it's creepy. I'm creeped out by this crap.

But it may actually be effective, and we might want to start considering this sort of thing.

I imagine that right now a common feeling in the RNC is "We just lost, after getting our voters very animated to vote and volunteer for us; it would be wrong and unseemly to ask them to do more for us right now, when they're dejected."

However, I think maybe the exact opposite might be true: Given that people are dejected and hopeless, perhaps now is precisely the time to ask people to do things. Nothing defeats depression like taking active steps to do something. Anyone who is depressed will find that doing anything -- anything, from vacuuming the house to, say, learning Francais -- helps alleviate the depression.

Maybe the RNC should think that way, and start trying to think of ways that people can get a sense of mastery over their own political fates by offering up organized activities for politicking, too. Even if the activity has little actual usefulness, sometimes a placebo can work wonders on a patient.

3. Last point: The Democrats have been running on a Middle Class Tax Cut for so long it seems it's always been this way.

The greatest political failure of the Republican Party, and the Romney campaign, was to give up what had always been our most powerful position.

It's not that we actually changed our minds on it -- we didn't -- but we allowed the Democrats to say "We support lowering taxes on the Middle Class" so often, with the implication (and outright explicit statement) that we don't.

And we never knocked them down on this -- no, if you're supporting raising government spending to WW2 emergency levels forever, you certainly are also planning to raise taxes on the middle class. It's called math, and it offers some conclusions to those who invest in a pencil and scratch pad.

But notice they're out there saying "We want to keep middle class taxes low!" and we're saying... I don't know what we're saying. We're entirely reactive. We are way behind in the OODA loop.

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posted by Ace at 04:24 PM

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