Earlier this year, when Barack Obama declared that Syria's use of chemical weapons would be tantamount to crossing a red line, he was running a play we can easily code as a Fiat. This is the no-spin strategy of declaration, one of 24 unique plays in The Standard Table of Influence. But of course the comment was refashioned by GOP rivals into a Label and soon used to great effect and to the great embarrassment of the president. Only Vladimir Putin could bail him out.
This week, as Tea Party politicians ran plays to de-fund Obamacare, they may have committed a similar and sizable mistake. Jetting in from to their all-red gerrymandered districts of 600,000 each, a handful of young House Republicans figured their positions were secure. They'd been elected and sent to Washington stop Obamacare and other entitlements -- All in the name of liberty, the junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, reminded CNN and anyone else with a microphone. But what Cruz and his chamber pals did not take into account was that their messaging to 600K constituents was never segregated from the other 300 million listening in.
Media research will tell us soon if the failed attempts to fund the U.S. government spurred the curiosity of the citizenry, but by some accounts, what the Cruz faction appears to have done is produce the most watched health care reality show ever and unwittingly alerted eligible millions to march to their browsers and buy their bags of Obamacare.
It was Jams and Peacocks that the Tea Party-inspired House Republicans ran to stop or slow the Affordable Care Act. But to the delight of Democrats, what may have happened instead is a public information campaign like no other. If Republicans were trying to stop Obamacare because they didn't want it or that they were afraid of what it might cost or mean politically, they may have accelerated and sealed its permanence. And, lest we forget, the more who enroll, the more the program plays to its potential as a healthcare cost-fix.
Who will save these junior playmakers? Probably not Putin.
Influence strategy is the underlying discipline to what we witnessed in Washington this week. Politicos run plays for a living. And while they don't know the names of the strategies they employ, they have become avid users and believers in their effects. But like any new-new thing -- whether the awful desktop publishing of the 1980s or the social media pollution of the present -- influence strategy is still young and subject to overuse and abuse.
Ted Cruz might agree, but he's busy watching himself on TV.
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