There must be plenty of people who think about politics who have reactions to Tuesday's election results. Rather than bringing in any of them, though, the New York Times opinion section decided to run a piece today by the fraud and shill Frank Luntz.
Frank Luntz declares, on the op-ed page of the Times, that the narratives you have been hearing from political analysts are wrong. This election, he writes, is about the public's desire to "'shake up and change the way Washington operates.'"
Notice that there are quotation marks within the quotation marks there. That is to preserve Luntz's construction, which reads in full thus:
The current narrative, that this election was a rejection of President Obama, misses the mark. So does the idea that it was a mandate for an extreme conservative agenda. According to a survey my firm fielded on election night for the political-advocacy organization Each American Dream, it was more important that a candidate "shake up and change the way Washington operates."
The words "'shake up and change the way Washington operates,'' which might appear at first glance to represent something uttered by the American public, are in fact the words of a poll question written by Frank Luntz, on behalf of an advocacy group, which Frank Luntz is now quoting back to the readers of the New York Times as if they were something someone else had told him.
The last time we saw Frank Luntz, he was appearing on Fox as an analyst to proclaim that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had delivered a speech that was "language perfection." Before going on Fox to analyze the brilliance of Goodell's speech, Luntz had written that speech.
Luntz, that is, has transcended the ordinary political business of lying about facts to carve out a lucrative business of lying about opinions. His baseline job is to find words that can be used to turn unpopular everyday concepts, such as inherited wealth, into things politicians can proudly declare their support of, such as "ending the death tax." But above that basic con job, he perpetrates the higher con job of posing as an objective observer, ratifying his own judgments.
There is no ethical or intellectual excuse for letting Luntz publish his paid propaganda work in a newspaper. Frank Luntz writing a newspaper opinion essay to explain what messages the American people want to hear is like Ronald McDonald writing an opinion essay about how the American people feel about the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder™. Through his conversations with ordinary Americans, Ronald explains, he has learned that they are "'lovin' it.'™"
But what does Frank Luntz say? He says this:
This year I traveled the country listening to voters, from Miami to Anchorage, 30 states and counting. And from the reddest rural towns to the bluest big cities, the sentiment is the same. People say Washington is broken and on the decline, that government no longer works for them—only for the rich and powerful.
And thus, after a campaign fed by an unprecedented infusion of unregulated corporate and plutocratic cash, the party more closely allied with wealth and power swept into control of the Senate.
No, wait, hang on. There must be an explanation here somewhere. The message to the new majority is this:
[M]ake the people's priorities your priorities. In our survey, the top priorities were making the government more efficient and controlling spending. So tackle deficits and the national debt, and root out the waste and abuse of government programs. Reduce the crippling red tape and regulations that are strangling small businesses.
"In our survey," Frank Luntz writes. Again: Luntz is not a pollster, in the sense of someone who goes out and tries to determine what the public thinks. The top priorities in a Frank Luntz survey are the priorities his company has been paid to get people to support.
Who was paying him this time? The group for which he did his survey, Each American Dream, is a 501(c)4 nonprofit, which is allowed to fund political campaigning and is not required to disclose its donors. Its website declares its purpose:
Each American Dream is pushing back against the politicians who are trying to divide Americans by class and income for political gain and who seek to use the tax code to punish achievement.
"Punish achievement" is Luntz-speak, of course, for "tax the rich." The American people surely resent a government that serves the rich and powerful—but who doesn't want a government that is run by achievers? America should achieve things!
Each American Dream also describes its mission as "ending the stigma of success." You might think taxing the rich makes sense—after all, rich people do have money. But nobody could support stigmatizing success; stigmas are bad, and success is good. It's genuinely insane to stigmatize success, if you put the words together that way.
The right climate for higher and higher achievement and healthily unstigmatized success must be one of cooperation. Luntz reports:
People are simply tired of identity politics that pit men against women, black against white, wealthy against poor.
Why, that conclusion sounds exactly like the language in Each American Dream's own mission statement! That might be because, further down, the mission statement becomes entirely about language:
Each American Dream is focused exclusively on winning American hearts and minds by effectively presenting the compelling case for economic freedom and reshaping the national debate on wealth and tax fairness. Through message development, message training and message promotion, Each American Dream is leading the fight to understand what language moves the American people, empower and equip opinion leaders to communicate most effectively and deliver messages that advance economic freedom.
So when Luntz writes in the Times to criticize the "narrative" that the Republicans' victory "was a mandate for an extreme conservative agenda," he is delivering a message about messaging on behalf of a group whose mission is "message promotion." Message promotion in the service of what? Well, a fairly extreme conservative agenda, if you want to be specific. Or if, like Luntz, you want to be the opposite of specific, "common-sense solutions."
Why is the New York Times playing along with this? Perhaps it's a matter of principle: Yes, the newspaper has given a platform to one of the most corrupt and dishonest figures in contemporary politics, an avatar of the destruction wrought by limitless secret spending, allowing him to smarmily lament the "broken" political system that it has been his life's work to break and which he is still breaking, as he grows richer and richer in the process. But it did not charge him for the space. Money has no place in politics.
[Photo via AP]