THE BLOG
02/01/2006 05:27 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lessons Learned from the Alito Fight

1. There is no organization on the left side of the political spectrum. None. If the Democratic politicians, the old established DC groups and the liberal media (blogs and radio shows) don't come together, they will continue to lose every single fight.

2. The reason they will lose every fight is because every issue is settled the minute it is framed. The framing happens immediately on the Republican side. The White House and Fox News Channel coordinate (as they are on the NSA warrantless spying scandal right now). Then every other conservative host, "journalist," and commentator follows suit. Once the frame is set, it's game set and match.

The Republican frame in Alito was that he was a well-qualified, mainstream, devoted and hard working judge who would interpret the law and not make it. The Democratic frame was ??? Nada. Zippo. No response whatsoever.

3. Once the Republican framing goes unchallenged, the media repeats it as if it is fact. If you do not counter attack in the media, you have no chance in persuading the public. Do the Democrats think the voters are going to get their point of view by telepathy?

4. The easy next step is to do a poll (sometimes by completely biased polling groups like Rasmussen and sometimes by legit polling organizations). The poll will show that the public supports the Republican position by a slight majority. It's amazing that it is only a slight lead on most issues when the other side hasn't even presented its case (and often times the Democratic position will win despite all these problems). Could you imagine if there were trials where only one of the lawyers spoke? Which side do you think would win more often?

5. Then comes my favorite step. Shove the poll in the Democrats face and tell them that they have no hope of winning and that the public is against them. Even more importantly, that they will lose their elections if they don't run to the "center" by supporting the Republican position instead. They will claim that the poll is definitive evidence that the public does not support their position so they better get on board with the Republicans otherwise they'll do to them what they did to Tom Daschle.

6. Then the most pathetic part comes. When the Democratic representatives start to cave in, quiver and repeat the same talking points used against them (Biden and Obama last weekend were the perfect examples as they argued forcefully against a filibuster they were going to vote with). They internalize the Republican messaging, start to panic and then, finally, turn against each other.

7. At which point, the base of the Democratic Party -- otherwise known as the people who voted them into office -- gets pissed. The normal people who vote Democratic but aren't intimately familiar with DC, can't understand why their elected representatives won't represent them. They are left constantly confused as to why their leaders sound more and more like Republicans and won't fight for their principles. So, they send angry responses to their politicians demanding them to actually stand for what they promised they were going to stand for.

8. Here comes another funny part. Then the Republicans point disapprovingly and tell the Democrats that their own base is crazy, radical and can't be trusted. If they "pander" to their base, they will lose all the mythical Republicans who vote for them in red states. Aren't the Republicans so helpful? They just want to help a brother out. Meanwhile, they keep appealing more and more to their base. I wonder why they don't worry about losing the "center."

After the Republicans convince the Democrats that their constituency is the "loony left" or the "far left," the Democrats derisively dismiss their own voters. Thereby making their base even angrier. And on and on the cycle goes.

9. Final result is that the Democrats have been sorely outplayed. They have switched positions in the middle and criticized their own stance and their own voters. So, when the elections roll around, the Republicans say the Democrats are "flip-floppers" and "wafflers" and "weak." They convince the electorate to vote for them instead because they are strong and mean what they say.

10. Democrats sink further and further into a hole and come out convinced they have to work harder at appealing to the "middle" in the next elections. And this whole charade is complete when the Republicans get together privately after an election and laugh their ass off at how incompetent, weak and clueless the Democrats are.

How many of these cycles do we have to go through before the Democrats wake up to the game that's being played? Are they really this gullible? How can they not see how much they're getting played?

The Republicans tell the Democrats that they'll be viewed as "obstructionists" if they filibuster Alito. And the Democrats believe it, split their votes, argue with each other and allow the confirmation to go through. If they had stuck together, the 41 Democratic Senators that voted "no" on the confirmation would have been enough to maintain a filibuster and stop the confirmation. If that had happened, the headlines would have been that the Democrats pulled off an amazing victory and set the President a crushing blow when his second nominee in a row was defeated.

Unbelievably, the Democrats actively chose defeat over victory. They had the votes. They just didn't have the courage.

For the love of God, it's not about running to the center. I'm in the center. I was a Republican until six years ago. The field has shifted. The Democrats are sitting smack dab in the middle of the center. The Republicans keep convincing them to run to the right. Why are they even listening to what the Republicans say? When was the last time you heard of a Republican wondering what the Democrats thought of electorate politics? They don't give a damn. They play their own game.

The most important issue of the year is coming up -- the NSA warrantless spying scandal. The President has clearly violated a federal law. Even his own Justice Department lawyers didn"t believe it was legal. He has run roughshod over the Constitution and made preposterous claims it was to get al-Qaeda members inside the US. If it was al-Qaeda, why didn't they just get a warrant? Does anyone really believe a secret surveillance court wouldn't give you a warrant to wiretap a suspected al-Qaeda operative?

Now the question is: will the Democrats finally step up and stay together? If they cut and run from this battle, it will be impossible to support them. Already there are signs that the Democrats have bought into the Republican talking point that this flagrant law-breaking will actually help the President because it is in the realm of national security. I thought you couldn't pay people to be this stupid. I guess I was wrong.

Any Democratic so-called "strategist" who suggests that the President should not be challenged for breaking the law should be fired on the spot.

If we don't learn the painful lessons of the past, we are doomed to repeat them over and over again. What's done is done with Alito. We must move on to the next fight. But I hope to God that the Democratic leaders by now understand the game that's being played. They have to start messaging and framing right now. If they don't do this immediately, they will have lost before they know what hit them. And the country can't afford another loss.