Sunday, January 30, 2005

See Arnold Run
snichols watched the "better" part of Run, Arnold, Run tonight on A&E against her better judgment. She'd give it maybe one snout (:) -- mainly it was a poorly written puff piece. An infomercial, as her principal advisor and co-tv watcher put it, for Arnold's constitutional amendment.

Meanwhile, snichols has been putting her recently Saul Alinsky primer to use in application on Arnold:

Rule #1: Use your opponent's greatest strength against him.

Rule #2: Turn your greatest weakness into a strength.

Rule #3: Make it personal, never about a particular corporation or entity, but about a CEO or manager or bad actor (anyone come to mind as a "bad actor"?)

We all know that in defeating John Kerry, Karl Rove applied these rules brilliantly.

Here in California almost every campaign the good guys engage in on every issue follows its' own opposite rules:

#1: Attack your opponent's greatest weakness.
#2: Lead with your own strength.
#3: Make it about the special interests.

Examples abound: the budget, health care, education, various initiative fights come to mind.

The closest kin to a campaign being waged in the tradition of Alinsky/Rove (is Alinsky rolling over in his grave? Is he even dead?) is the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Right's ongoing

One could argue that Arnold's greatest strength is his commitment to "clean up Sacramento" and thus any and all allusions to his strong ties to special interests taint this strength of his. Moreover one could argue that by attacking him rather than the special interests, you ARE making it personal, and it will stick in the public's mind. So there's real merit to this approach.

But is it working? It seems that Arnold's popularity is falling, but is that enough to achieve the policy goals we all have? And is Arnold's perceived "cleanliness" really his greatest strength?

snichols thinks that perhaps Arnold's greatest strength is the degree to which he has generally accomplished what he puts his mind to: he set forth to be the world's best known body builder, a movie star and the Governor of California and no one can deny that he accomplished all those things.

Most recently he set his intention to pass or defeat certain initiatives, and he (mostly) did that too.

If Arnold is to be focussed on, argues snichols, why not take that strength squarely on? He's a strong man, a bully, a man who gets his way no matter who stands in his way. snichols thinks it might not stick to him or even be relevant to the average voter that he collects tons of special interest money to achieve his goals. This only makes him seem that much more powerful and attractive. So every single time we hype the money and the corresponding payoff in public policy, we're drawing attention to the degree to which this Austrian muscle-boy has people pay $100,000 a pop to eat breakfast with him and then gets his stuff donen using their money, and you don't.

What if instead, we went for the jugular? What if we could make this ultimate success story the ultimate failure? The budget is the perfect place to do it. Don't make the story the special interests are the problem, or Arnold's ambitions are the problems. Make the story: Arnold can't do it. He's too weak. He's too scared. He's met his match in the legislature. He's a baby. He has to go to the initiatives because he doesn't know how to do it. There's ample evidence to back up these claims, and some of it even overcomes some of the Democratically controlled legislature's greatest perceived weaknesses.

He's absolutely got to respond to the goading. This is why he constantly goads. If you kick sand in this 100 pound weakling of a governor's face, he's bound to over-react and show his cards. This tactic has worked for bullies and strong men from time immemorium, and it'll work here.

snichols will apply rule 2 tomorrow.

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