I Helped Break Frank Luntz
I was one of the people who broke Frank Luntz.
The day before Biden's inauguration, I was part of a virtual focus group about the current state of our country. It resulted in headlines like "Ex-GOP pollster Frank Luntz says 'I don't want to do this anymore' after 'unity' themed focus group goes off the rails," and "GOP pollster: Biden will struggle to unify U.S., middle ground post-Trump 'doesn't exist.'"
And ... yeah, it was as bad as it sounds.
For long stretches, so many people were trying to scream at the same time that you could hardly even tell what was going on. At one point, a woman mocked a man who lost his mother to COVID-19.
The main thing it confirmed for me was that Trump voters are exactly who I think they are.
So how did I get on this panel? Well, I am, in fact, an independent-leans-Dem Wisconsin voter. (I have bounced back and forth between registered Dem and registered independent for most of my adult life. I most recently left the Democratic Party when I was still in West Virginia, because of WV Dems' failure to stand up for abortion rights, but I digress.) I may not be exactly what people picture when they imagine an independent Wisconsin voter, but I can't help other people's preconceptions, now can I?
I'm not even sure how I got on Frank Luntz's email list, but the same can be said for most email lists I'm on. I usually just ignore these emails but decided to fill this one out. To be honest, I thought we would be paid for our time. (We weren't.) But the email confirming it said we would be talking directly to some members of Congress, so I was like, "Alright, let's do it." As you can imagine, I have a lot to say about everything that's going on in the world right now.
Within minutes, it was obvious there were some vocal psychos in the group, which is to be expected in basically any group of people talking about politics and definitely any group of people talking about politics who are dumb and brainwashed enough to believe the shit Trump used to tweet.
Within 15 minutes, knowing they were being watched by members of Congress, the focus quickly devolved into basically the worst Thanksgiving dinner of all time. Imagine half your family is the terrible, racist drunk uncle, and they all showed up. And they are not about to let facts or visitors get in the way of their stupid bullshit.
Luntz asked us about things like the insurrection, COVID, Wall Street, and the economy. But most of the time, people just used those as jumping off points to yell about ... well, whatever they felt like yelling about. Often, conspiracy theories peddled by Trump and friends. Only one Trump voter on the call seemed sane, and he agreed with impeaching Trump and removing him from office for the attempted coup.
Here are some actual exchanges from the focus group (scroll down for a longer video). I recommend huffing something that will kill a few brain cells before jumping in.
“We’ve got to get a hold of COVID first… Trump kind of blew off COVID, he thought it was a big joke.” “Because it… https://t.co/49HrXpGimQ— Frank Luntz (@Frank Luntz) 1611160096.0
In conclusion: This is America. https://t.co/ssCbgh03zU— Frank Luntz (@Frank Luntz) 1611162946.0
Pamela from Texas has some REAL problems.
If you watch any of the videos, you will probably be surprised that you don't actually hear much of my voice. As y'all Wonkers know, I have lots of thoughts on the things we were talking about. But it was clear almost immediately that this was not going to be worth it, so I pretty much just sat back in my chair and started vaping. In the end, most of my contributions including rolling my eyes, laughing, and making sarcastic comments.
Some words for Frank Luntz
The other participants weren't the only people who pissed me off. Both during the call and media appearances since, Frank Luntz has used the group to bitch and moan about division.
About the group, he told CNBC,
"They don't see eye to eye. They don't find common ground. They actually seek to divide themselves," he said. "So, if somebody says something positive about corporations, the next person will say something negative. If somebody says we need to raise 'X,' they'll argue we need to cut 'Y.'"
And he's right about the division. He's right about our utter disdain for each other. But he, and so many other Republicans, still willfully refuse to see the damage they did to help get us to this point.
People like Frank Luntz spent their careers cultivating the "division" we see today. Yes, Donald Trump is an absolute horror show and a number of prominent Republicans and former Republicans have disavowed him. But you can draw a straight line from Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich to Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.
In the mid-90s, Luntz was one of the main architects of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America," pushing racist stereotypes in order to advocate bills doing things like increasing mass incarceration and taking money away from poor people. He advised other Republicans to "speak like Gingrich" and use terms meant to demonize Democrats and Democratic policies.
In 1990, he worked with pollster Frank Luntz to put out a memo of focus group-tested words for GOP candidates to use.
The cover letter, signed by Gingrich, was titled "Language, a Key Mechanism of Control" and encouraged candidates to "speak like Newt."
"This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media, " the memo said. "The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible."
The "optimistic positive governing words" included change, moral, courage, reform, freedom and common sense. Negative, contrasting words to be used on opponents included destructive, liberal, welfare, traitors, radical and corruption.
He came up with terms like "death tax" to confuse people who never would have been subject to estate taxes in the first place and make them think that the government was going to tax them for dying.
In 2009, on the day of Barack Obama's first inauguration, Luntz hosted a dinner to outline their plans for dealing with the new administration. He helped decide that the GOP strategy for working with the country's first Black president would be "to fight Obama on everything."
So forgive me if I don't feel like sitting down for a lecture about unity from one of the men who was instrumental in bringing us to where we are today.
So that was a thing that happened
The truly hilarious part of all this is that the purpose overall seemed to be to get our opinions on the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group with members from both parties in the House and Senate that seeks to find issues where there's a bipartisan desire to get things done. It seems like a great idea, and caucus co-chair Josh Gottheimer (D - NJ) did a great job of selling it.
But on that call, there were only two things most people seemed to agree on.
One, we want our $1,400 checks.
Two, we all hate each other.
Frank Luntz hosts pre-inauguration focus group www.youtube.com
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