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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

WATCH OUT DEMOCRATS: the success of the conservative undercover “sting” operation against ACORN is going to unleash a wave of copycat attacks. Common sense can prevent them from succeeding.

Democrats should psychologically prepare themselves for a wave of undercover “sting” operations designed to elicit damaging video or audio from the staff or volunteers of Democratic organizations. In today’s warped media environment, a single, entirely unrepresentative video clip obtained from one individual in one local office can discredit and damage a national organization with hundreds of branches and thousands of staff.
In the case of ACORN, some local offices threw the undercover videographers out. Others called the authorities. Others essentially laughed in their face. All that didn’t matter a bit. One damaging video clip and the entire organization was profoundly damaged.
Democrats should count on the success of this sting operation stimulating a large number of imitators. The targets will not only be official Democratic organizations but pro-Democratic groups and supporters.
Common sense can prevent 99% of these sting operations from succeeding. All con artists – which is what the conservative “sting” videographers really were — rely on the tendency of people to be polite and avoid friction whenever they can. We are not usually aware of it, but most of us tend to “go along” with what other people say rather than disagree with them. A skillful con-man (or con-woman) can manipulate these responses with ease to get people to agree to things they would never ordinarily endorse – just think of the way time-share salesmen or dubious door-to-door charity solicitors get people to buy condos or make donations. After the sting is over, the mark always kicks himself or herself and says “geez, why the hell did I do that.”
The trick to resisting this kind of manipulation boils down to two simple rules: be mentally prepared for it and be ready to politely but firmly resist pressure to do or say things in order to “just go along.”
Here are a few specific tips:

• Do not “play around” with unfamiliar people who initiate conversations regarding activities that are illegal or morally wrong. Remarks like “oh come on, don’t be so uptight, we’re all just kidding around here” can easily be edited out of a video, leaving only what appears to be damaging evidence of inappropriate behavior.
• If something seems funny or odd, alert your superiors and co-workers. Get other people to observe.
• Use your own cell phone to record yourself rejecting attempts to elicit damaging admissions e.g. “I’m here with two new walk-in volunteers who are asking for our help in committing an illegal act. I’m telling them that we don’t do that kind of thing here.”
• Make notes after an event that seems suspicious.

Remember: if you represent a Democratic group or organization, in the age of YouTube and cell phone video you’re basically on camera all the time.

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