Thursday, January 28, 2016

Infiltration: How Karl Rove Tactics in Liberal Social Media are Attempting to Divide and Conquer

by Nomad

hands typing computerWould it really surprise you if the Republicans engaged in "dirty tricks" to try to win the election? It shouldn't. They have already announced the intention to infiltrate liberal sites and demoralize liberal voters.

Historian Will Durant once wrote:
The political machine triumphs because it is a united minority acting against a divided majority.
Probably nothing could better explain the success of the conservative wing of the Republican party than that sentence. For years, the GOP has allowed very little dissent among its ranks. The party motto has been "you are either with us or against us" since the heady days of the so-called Reagan revolution. 

Of late, this situation has been turned on its head. From a political strategist's point of view, the situation could hardly be more advantageous for the Left. Or at least, you'd think so.

The Ignored Warning

One man earlier on forewarned about this Republican problem.
His name was Karl Rove.
Forty years of Republican "success" was actually based in large part on Democratic failure, Rove said. But it could easily work in the opposite direction. He added this:
"But it is also a cautionary tale of what happens to a dominant party — in this case, the Democrat Party —  when its thinking becomes ossified; when its energy begins to drain; when an entitlement mentality takes over; and when political power becomes an end in itself rather than a mean to achieve the common goal."
In spite of Rove's warning, and largely under his command, the GOP fell into the very trap he warned about. 

Indeed, all this should be great news for the Democrats. According to most polls, Hillary Clinton has a significant lead in polls both against her immediate challenger, Bernie Sanders. and against all of the Republican candidates. Earlier polls suggested that, of all the candidates, Donald Trump would pose the least challenging for Hillary Clinton. 
(That lead has reportedly narrowed in the last month but then the polls are really all over the place. However, none of the polls have shown Trump defeating Clinton. Not one. Even Fox News gives her an 11 point lead.)

Sanders and Clinton may have some differences of opinion on a few issues but overall, when you compare them to the Republican party candidates, those differences are pretty predictable and not unbreachable. A shift between Clinton's middle of the road appeal and Sander's somewhat radical ideas.

The Democratic debates have, at least, been cordial affairs, unlike the those held by the Republican party. The GOP candidates did everything but hiss and spit and arch their backs during the debates.
So Clinton and her supporters (and presumably all liberal progressives) should be putting on party hats and dancing a jig. 
But that's not what's happening on social media sites. 

Facebook's Democratic Divide

Instead, we witness professed liberals, progressives, and independents pulling each other's pigtails and calling one other names. When one ventures into the echo-chambered world of Facebook and peer into what the Left is saying, it fairly disheartening.

On one side, there is the purist crowd who purport that Bernie is the true progressive and Hillary is merely a poser, beholden to Wall Street and corporations. Her critics point out her connections to Monsanto, the Clinton foundation and her "lead from behind" approach. 

On the opposite side, Clinton supporters claim that Sanders is a one issue candidate whose political point of view will make his administration so antagonistic to the Far Right, they will throw even more obstacles in his way than they did with Obama. His critics also point to his age and his overall crotchetiness.

Even though the comments often erupt in nastiness, one could, at least, say that it is just a normal feature of confrontational American politics and a political system never particularly celebrated for compromise and cooperation. 
 Except for the overall tone of the argument, it's pretty much par for the course in American politics, not known for its intelligent discussion of issues. 

casting vote

Walking Away

Careful observers have seen a more disturbing trend in the online debate. It is much harder to explain. Increasingly, one can see (particularly in the underdog Sanders contingent) the adamant comment:

"If _________ doesn't become the Democratic Party's nominee, then I will simply not vote at all."

For such people, they would rather stay home in November next year than vote for a candidate that doesn't absolutely represent their opinions. Even if that means that their decision could lead to a Republican as president.

A politician from another age, Walter H. Judd once pointed out the danger in this kind of thinking:
“People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing.
Decisions are not made by people who walk away from their responsibility. They kill democracy with an ax of stubborn petulance.  

And that could be one of the only glimmers of hope for the Republican party in the upcoming election. At the moment, their only shot at the White House- and it is a long shot, to be sure- is to keep both Democrats and Independents at home on election day.
How could, you might ask, the liberals (or any intelligent voter) be so blind and so obliging to a party that hails Donald Trump as its leader?
Given the day-to-day mess that Republicans have made of Congress, why would any patriotic American be willing to fork over the keys to the White House too?
Have they learned nothing at all from the eight-year Bush debacle? There really are minimum standards when it comes to the Commander in Chief and when you elect a person below those standards, any number of disasters can occur. 

Besides that, it's not just to Executive branch at stake. Those Supreme Court judges are not getting any younger. And there is a 99% chance that, with Republicans in charge, the next Supreme Court Justices will make Tony Scalia and Clarence Thomas seem as wise as Solomon and as clever as Einstein. 

It makes no sense whatsoever but then has anything made any sense in this election so far?

Infernal Infiltration of Rovian Trolls

Some have claimed that the Facebook pages are infiltrated with trolls from the land of Rove who pose as disenfranchised uber-liberals. They have been sent to stir up as much anonymous mischief as possible with the objection of fracturing the opposition.

It's not as hysterical a claim as you might think. In fact, that's quite possible. Karl Rove made a career out of effectively spreading dissension amongst the liberals. And liberals make it an extraordinarily easy. 

One time, Rove justified his tactics this way by saying that "negative politics have always been around." Outside of Reagan's political consultant and strategist, "Lee" Atwater, few have mastered the art of aggressively negative politics as well as Karl Rove.

Back in 2011, allegedly leaked documents began appearing which many people claimed to have originated from the Rove inner circle. There were plenty of doubts about them. Some said it was planted by liberals to discredit the Right. Others believed it was actually a spoof and was never meant to be taken seriously. (Spoof and reality have merged somewhere along the way, it seems.)

In any event, the supposed memo reportedly describes the conservative social media strategy. Here are two samples from that memo.
  • Infiltrate all liberal websites, posing as disaffected liberals with liberal-sounding usernames, icons, and signatures. 
  • Push primary challenge. Push third party. Push Green. Push Socialist. Push write-in voting. Push non-voting to "send a message."
Whether the memo was true or not, many liberal voters were willing to believe that Rove and his underlings were quite capable of such subterfuge if the stakes were high enough. And for conservatives when aren't the stake high enough to run a devious campaign?
Insinuating covertly inside liberal pages would not be impossible to imagine. In fact, although it smacks of conspiracy, it's actually a pretty logical assumption.

Certainly, this really is what you see going on in The Great Bernie-Hillary squabble.

America at the Crossroads

How much truth there is in the infiltration theory is anybody's guess. The evidence is only circumstantial at best. Nevertheless, it's worth looking at.  
American Crossroads, a political action group started by Karl Rove,  has been working hard in reaching younger voters.  To gain the greatest influence, you must get inside the forum and the world's largest forum is the Internet and more specifically, Facebook.
And what is the point of attempting to persuade people who are already self-proclaimed conservatives?  

Let's pretend there is a game at work. If so, the infiltrators have two main goals:
  • to undermine the solidity of the Clinton campaign by making Bernie Sanders look like a plausible alternative for the purist progressive.
  • and/or  to create such hateful unbridgeable division within the liberal ranks that the supporters of the candidate who doesn't receive the party's nomination will walk away en masse.
Far-fetched? But, with Trump as a loose cannon of the GOP nightmare, what else can be done at this point?
The tool to create this faultline was to paint Hillary as an agent of the 1%, corporations and Wall Street. That might seem preposterous given the fact she would be running against Mr. Trump, the richest candidate in American history, representing a party who has fought tooth and nail to protect the privileged entitled class.

However, because there is just enough truth in the allegation- a nano-dot of it, at least, the tactic has proved to be surprisingly effective.. if Facebook is anything to go by. There is so much anti-Hillary propaganda being posted (which is quickly matched by anti-Bernie memes) that is it sometimes difficult to see the liberal forest from the trees.

The squeaky voice of reason ("I will vote for whoever the nominee is but I hope it's________.") has been drowned out by the shouts of insults, regurgitated allegations linked from publications like Breitbart, The Blaze or- on a good day- Fox and Friends.  
Poorly executed memes (Hillary looking bedraggled or wild-eyed) decrying the treachery of Hillary or the incompetency of Sanders (looking like a mad professor) are repeated over and over, even after the source has been thoroughly exposed and discredited.

It's really the kind of thing that you would expect to see, not at liberal forums- but in the more hate-filled Tea Party hot spots.
Still, as suspicious as it might seem, it's not really proof of infiltration.  

The NYT article quotes another leader of the organization, Steven Law, president of American Crossroads. Prior to this, Law served as Deputy Secretary of Labor in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush
He recently told an interviewer that the Crossroads goal was simply "to erode what should be her natural core of support."

He even admitted that members of his staff at American Crossroads had easily been able to "inhabit the liberal role, despite being fervent Republicans." 
He said:
“It can diminish enthusiasm for Hillary among the base over time. And if you diminish enthusiasm, lukewarm support can translate into lackluster fund-raising and perhaps diminished turnout down the road.”
Law is no stranger to the world of political Internet. In 2005, Law was chosen as the Chairman of President’s Management Council Subcommittee on E-Government
For those of you who have never heard of the term, "E-government." it goes by other a bit more explanatory names, such as Internet government, digital government, online government. In its most basic sense, it consists of the digital interactions between a citizen and their government.

Interestingly, there is more compelling evidence to be found outside of American Crossroads.

Earned Media

Located in Alexandria, Virginia, America Rising calls itself a "Republican opposition research group." There's probably some very boring legal reasons for this nom de guerre because the research conducted by the group isn't what the kind that leads to scientific breakthroughs. It's the kind of research that leads to Republican victories.

In fact, CNN reported that it was actually a super PAC that aimed to "spread negative stories about congressional Democratic incumbents and candidates through digital channels and earned media."
(As if Fox News needed any help.)
For your information, the term "earned media" refers paradoxically to any kind of media that is free- as opposed to paid advertising. That would include presumably all social media like Facebook.

A recent New York Times article quoted Colin Reed, America Rising’s executive director, outlining the group's strategy when it came to Hillary Clinton:
“The idea is to make her life difficult in the primary and challenge her from the left. We don’t want her to enter the general election not having been pushed from the left, so if we have opportunities — creative ways, especially online — to push her from the left, we’ll do it just to show those folks who she needs to turn out that she’s not in line with them.”
In the past, the ambitious Reed has worked for John McCain, Mitt Romney and Chris Christie and Scott Brown. In the past, Reed worked in another lobbying organization called Freedom Watch, run and supported, in part, by several former officials of the Bush administration.

This above quote opens up a lot of interesting questions. So much is being admitted but not directly. How could a Republican opposition organization push a liberal candidate "from the left" except by infiltration? Naturally, Reed doesn't go into a clear definition of what he means when he says "creative ways, especially online."
That, of course, would be revealing trade secrets.

The statement reinforces the notion that things are not what they seem in the liberal online sites. 
Despite this confession (of sorts), it doesn't mean that every Sanders supporter is a masked Republican. 
Clearly, it doesn't take many trolls to spoil the discussion.

Conspiracy or Just Stupidity

In the end, the infiltration tactic can be dismissed as a conspiracy theory. As if conspiracies never happened in politics. Politics is, practically by definition, 80% conspiracy.

However, there is another possible explanation for the tussling and tugging you witness on Facebook. It isn't a flattering one either.  It is just as likely that progressive and liberals are actually willing to risk hearing the phrase "Today, President Trump/ Cruz/ Carson/ Santorum (or God-forbid, Bush) declared.." 

For principled reasons, they are willing to lose the next election by default in the name of high-minded principles and for the sake of politics as it should be and not as it actually is. This is, ironically, the same kind of uncompromising (and frankly) immature thinking that dominates the Tea Party that has devastated the GOP.  

It's depressing to think that there are people who have never heard of the spoiler effect- otherwise known as Vote splitting. It's strange to think there are people who are completely ignorant of the part that it has played in US presidential politics.

There's the oft-cited, much debated Ralph Nader example which, according to the theory, allowed George Bush to waltz into the White House (thanks, Jeb "can fix this" Bush). Besides that, there have been nine other times in which third party candidates who have thrown a monkey wrench into the works.