This is a new book that I have co-authored with Hank Adler, a professor at Chapman University’s business school, a post he took up after retirement from a long and successful career as a partner with Deloitte.
Hank and I undertook this project because we had –independent of each other and for different reasons– arrived at the same conclusion: That the “Fair Tax” proposal put forward by my radio tal show host Neal Boortz and Congressman John Linder is a disastrous mirage that far too many Republicans have been drawn too, and for all the wrong reasons. “The Fair Tax” is a hopelessly flawed fantasy, but one with a surface appeal of simplicity that attracts especially politicians in need of energetic volunteers and quick headlines. But if the “Fair Tax” becomes the “Kemp-Roth” of the next few years, the GOP will be rightly punished at the polls as the details of the plan make it to the desks of serious political and economic analysts and from there to large numbers of voters who will examine the plan carefully and reject it almost immediately upon doing so. In short, not only should Republicans and conservatives not endorse the Fair Tax, they ought to affirmatively disavow the plan and press instead for serious and thoroughgoing tax reform, including lower and flatter tax rates.
Fair Tax enthusiasts often call my show and demand that I “read the book,” by which they mean one or both of Neal’s books. We have, and they do nothing to persuade serious readers of the plans merits, but much to camouflage the scheme’s many deeply embedded flaws. Henceforth I’ll be able to respond “Yes, but have you read the book that exposes the Fair tax as a destructive fantasy it is?”
The latest missive from our favorite anonymous ad man:
I can still be reached at email@example.com. Of course, these days I have to wonder if that address is on some DHS list. Oh well. Whatever.
So, what’s next? That’s the question every Republican and conservative should be both asking, and planning, this very minute. If the momentum from the Tea Parties is to continue, it’s up to individuals to continue it. Waiting for the GOP to pick up the ball and run could not only cost momentum – it could cost the game. The Tea Parties indicate that although the GOP still hasn’t figured out 21st Century communications, conservative Americans most certainly have. The parties were a success on so many levels, but I want to point out three:[# More #]
1. The left sees them as a threat.
Puerile on-air derision from the poster children of the mainstream media, over-energetic dismissal from congressional Dems, and a textbook, “Oh really? I hadn’t noticed,” from the White House — all point to fear. If we’ve learned one thing about the Left, it’s this: When they have no fear, they act swiftly and directly (“Pass this Stimulus bill quickly, without reading it, or we’ll immediately be in another Great Depression! ” Earmark much, Mr. President?) But when they fear, they attack from the flanks (It’s a funny sexual act / it’s racist / it’s really astroturfing, funded by the rich / oops, how did that report calling all conservatives “extremists” slip out, coincidentally on the day you were prepping your protest signs?)
The fear is real. But don’t get overconfident. The Left doesn’t fear that it can produce an answer to the Tea Parties. It knows it can. It simply fears an opposition that’s showing signs of having some of the same new media skills and grassroots organizational ability Dems rode into the White House. They thought they were up against Straw Man 2.0 (which, realistically, they were — back in November.) They know their job is harder now, in a way they failed to calculate.
2. The events were largely driven by, and almost completely covered by, new media.
Social media isn’t a mystery. It’s simply grassroots organizing on steroids, without all the actual door-knocking — or better still, enhanced by the actual door-knocking. While the left employs plenty of paid help with its grassroots organizational efforts, the truth is, grassroots organizing is simply the spreading of a message by people — never mind the electronic means they use to spread it these days. If people like the message a lot, or if they dislike it a lot, or if they fear it a lot, it spreads faster and farther. That’s true of any message anywhere, but it’s especially true of messages on the web. The message of the Tea Parties spread far and wide without the use of paid organizers.
The fact that a significant protest like this was not truly covered by all but one of the mainstream traditional broadcast media speaks volumes about the use of social media by conservatives. And it also speaks volumes about the popularity of the message we’re spreading. As for lack of coverage, I’d say there was no lack of coverage. It just happened to be in places other than CNN and MSNBC. Which is fine, considering I don’t rely on either of them to filter the news I consume. I had no problem finding Tea Party coverage.
3. The Atlanta Party showed us what can happen when an integrated approach is applied to messaging.
The biggest party was in Atlanta. San Antonio wasn’t far behind. The reason? The Left will say it’s because Fox News was part of the organizational astroturf behind the whole movement. That’s a nice spin on their part, but not entirely accurate, as far as I can tell.
Here’s what I see: You have a message that originates from, and is embraced by, regular people. It begins to spread the way regular people spread messages – via email, social media, and good old word-of-mouth. It gets noticed and embraced by popular commentators who have a large following in traditional media. They spread the word farther, and lend their personal celebrity to two specific gatherings. Those particular gatherings explode in attendance. The above scenario could just as easily describe the beginnings of a recent campaign about Hope and Change.
The point is, while social media is powerful, an integrated approach across all media can dwarf anything that is focused in any single medium. But a bunch of citizens who simply attended a Tea Party aren’t going to launch a coordinated, integrated messaging campaign. That, it would seem to me, is the job of the GOP. And the GOP has just been handed, on a silver platter, an amazing opportunity to do just that. Forgive me if I question whether they’ll be able to carry this ball.
Should they choose to try, I hope they’ll consider a few pointers for mounting a sophisticated messaging campaign atop an already established grassroots movement: It helps if your message is concise. It helps a lot if it’s already popular — in other words, if it’s already out there, run with it. Don’t re-shape it to the point that you eviscerate it. The best way to ensure popularity is to listen. Listen to the messages that filter from the bottom up, rather than defining the message from the top down. Listen, and coalesce what you hear into a concise, emotionally engaging rallying cry that spreads easily. Then use every means at your disposal to spread it across all media. And when you get to the media that is completely controlled by people you do not control — social media — step back, and let the message sprout its own wings. It will. You just have to know when to help it, and when to get out of the way.
I’ll try and line up an interview (the first of perhaps many) this week.