Pages from the Conservative Playbook

The Trump playbook isn’t something he authored

Like everything else he champions, he simply plagiarized it, adding nothing more than his brand, which is, in turn, little more than a gilded superlative stamped on top of the playbook of American political and corporate conservatism.

In spite of it’s brazen defiance of reason and decency, his grifted tactics remain amazingly effective. Even as Trump buffets his party and administration, Democrats and the much of the press have a hard time recognizing and developing ways to comprehend and counter them. Often they’re not really trying.

Here is a 1st-stab at articulating the Conservative Playbook.

Accuse your opponent of what you have done, are doing, or are about to do, so that when you do it, you are inured to criticism. Logic as as follows:
a) You already accused them of doing it, so what you’re doing now can’t possibly be that same thing, because you’re the accuser, and accusers know better. (Accusation as vaccination)
b) They already did that terrible thing. So now, if they can do it, you can do it (The “They did it first!” grade school playground tactic)
c) Do as I say, not as I do (The grade school authoritarian tactic)
You can actually depend on such accusations as a kind of honest admission of misdeeds past, present and future. Examples are endless:
– “The Democrats’ are fiscally irresponsible” = Will drive up the debt, inflation, and push deregulation and inequality to such an extreme that the economy actually collapses.
– “Obama is a socialist, fascist dictator” = Will bring actual fascists like Sebastian Gorka and David Clarke into the inner circle; will favor and authoritarian leaders worldwide over more Democratic-leaning ones; will continue dog-whistling to neo-nazi and fascist groups across the country and worldwide.
– “Lock her up / she’s crooked” = Will ride roughshod over laws, ethics, morals, and custom.

1 – Accuse your opponent of always playing the victim
2 – Attack your opponent with patently false, outrageous, and absurdist cruelties
3 – Portray their counter arguments as false, outrageous, absurdest and cruel and most importantly, unwarranted.
4 – Dwell on #3 and play the victim to the max.

Do satire in tone, not in substance. Say something over top, using a tone that suggests you don’t really mean it, while simultaneously saying it with great conviction. Then, when you change your mind, reneg on your commitments, or otherwise indulge hypocrisy you can point to your use of ironic signaling as evidence you never really meant it.
For extra credit:
1 – accuse actual political satirists of using that exat same tactic.
2 – accuse your opponent of being a flip-flopper, and cite that as the worst thing imaginable.

Make outrageous first offers. Make outrageous second offers. Go in the opposite direction of compromise, so that when finally you settle, you’ve bent the negotiation toward an outrageous set of terms, and your lesser opponent will perceive any reprieve from crazy as the closest thing they’ll get to a negotiated compromise.

Layer false statements under other false statements. Create a foundation of falsehoods on which you present a top-level fallacious argument. (Classic example: “When did you stop beating your wife?” to a lifelong celibate gay pacifist who’s been a backwoods hermit for 20 years) Engage your opponent on that top-level argument, forcing them to argue the “when”, allowing the “beating” presupposition to stand unaddressed. This key building block of a fact-free reality.

They are features, not bugs. (Taken from the Vlad Putin authoritarian playbook as articulated by Masha Gessen here:
“Lying is the message. It’s not just that both Putin and Trump lie, it is that they lie in the same way and for the same purpose: blatantly, to assert power over truth itself.”

In taking the American myth of the self-made, rugged individualist beyond Ayn Rand’s wildest fantasy, the arguments, conclusions, policies and attitudes of the Republican party go far beyond outrage and anger. They’re about valuing cruelty, vindictiveness, hostility and sadism as ends in and of themselves. That makes sense: if radical de-regulation and limitless profits for corporations are your party’s core platform, convincing those on the losing end of that platform that struggle & misery are noble and honorable becomes paramount.

These tactics, among many others, are easily recognizable in Donald Trump, but he’s hardly the only purveyor. He’s merely the Republican Party’s character in distilled, clown car caricature form. And yet the conservatives, much as they nurse and stew this swamp by no means hold a monopoly ownership of it. They share it with actual monopolies — the oligarchy of global corporatism sustains itself, behind the scenes, writing their companies’ and our government’s policies from this playbook. Their advertising may be cheeky and perky, their products may be ubiquitous nicely-packaged, their demeanor playful but try confronting them in the courts (or increasingly the arbitration room), or merely calling their customer support, and you just as quickly discover your friendly corporation is, beneath it all, an adversary that will whip out the same playbook and run you through it, chapter and verse.


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