“If I could give three words of advice, they would be ‘tell the truth.’ If I got three more words, I’d add: ‘All the time.’ –Randy Pausch, in, The Last Lecture
Here’s the thing we have to remember: Politicians use language. They search for phrases that will resonate hypnotically within us. Good political phrases are like gold to politicians, because with them, they can frame the issues and easily influence us.
Take the phrase, “Tax Relief”, for example. President Bush’s team came up with that one and he made magic every time he used it. Why? It totally frames the issue of taxes. In order for there to be “relief” there has to be an affliction. It’s a perfect frame. That one little phrase influenced the way millions of Americans thought about taxes. Instantly “Taxes” became an “affliction” for which we all needed “relief.” We haven’t been able to have an intelligent discussion about taxes since
Over the past few months, we’ve heard Harsdorf and Walker refer to the “Special Interests” involved in the recalls, hoping that voters wouldn’t think about who that really is.
It’s a strategy that allows Harsdorf to appear to be protecting tax-payers (who need relief) from something scary — kind of like the boogeyman. It’s a fear Harsdorf wants you to have. She needs there to be a “special interests” boogeyman so she can protect you from it.
But remember when you were young, and you thought the boogeyman was in your closet? Remember how foolish you felt when your mom turned on the light and it was just a lump of dirty clothes?
Unlike our moms, Harsdorf wants to keep us in the dark—and very much afraid. That boogeyman she’s calling “special interests”? Yeah, those “special interests” are the teachers at your school, organizing food drive competitions between classes two weeks before Thanksgiving. It’s the non-profit broadband provider, WiscNet, bringing affordable internet access to your libraries, public schools and universities. They’re the police, firefighters, snowplow and ambulance drivers keeping us safe. It’s the dad across the street, ashamed because his kids’ clothes are too small. You know these people.
While collecting signatures to recall Harsdorf in my hometown earlier this spring, I was often confronted by angry Harsdorf supporters. Repeatedly, I was asked where I came from and how much I was getting paid. They didn’t believe me when I said I was from St. Croix Falls, and was paid nothing. When I told them I was a teacher, many called me a freeloader—or worse.
It shocked me.
Upon reflection, however, it makes perfect sense. These angry Harsdorf supporters believe and trust her. They were afraid. And I was the boogeyman. My hope is that enough people will turn on the light and begin to wonder—if Harsdorf isn’t telling the truth about special interests, what else is she lying about?