Political Tactics Explained

5 Ways to Get Votes and Infuriate the Opposition

Political Tactics Explained

Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) knows how to preach to the choir, as does Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Months into their freshmen terms, both Warren and Cruz have emerged as stalwarts—if not the intellectual future—of their parties. Each was a headline speaker at events this week, their words reflecting a divide that has both energized their political bases and increased the level of polarization in Washington. Both were praised this week for speaking truth to power, though their parties make no effort to understand each other.

Warren espoused the virtues of government oversight for the advocacy group Better Markets on Thursday. She reflected on the fifth anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ collapse, an event that triggered the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

In the aftermath, Warren achieved fame by taking leave from her post at Harvard University’s law school to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an independent regulator meant, in part, to stop the mortgage abuses that led to the meltdown.

She expressed her outrage at regulators missing 61.4 percent of their deadlines for rulemakings based on the 2010 Dodd-Frank overhaul of Wall Street.

“Since when does Congress set deadlines, watch regulators miss most of them, and then take that failure as a reason not to act?” Warren said. “I thought that if the regulators failed, it was time for Congress to step in. That’s what oversight means.”

Cruz outlined his foreign policy vision at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Wednesday afternoon. A former Texas solicitor general, he sauntered along the stage as if delivering a closing argument to a jury. He accused President Obama of selling out to the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who this week has floated a deal that could prevent the U.S. bombing of Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons.

“We should understand that you don’t deal with nations like Russia and China by embracing arm-in-arm and singing kumbaya,” Cruz said.

Even though they stand on opposing sides of the political spectrum, Warren and Cruz are actually a lot alike. They both speak in direct sentences. They both won office with grassroots support. And they both rely on five simple tactics when pressing their case, using a style that could be important to monitor as Congress and the Obama administration try to bridge their differences on the budget, Obamacare, and the debt ceiling later this year.

Pick a Villain or Two – Not surprisingly, Warren aimed her fury at Wall Street banks. 

“Even after exploiting consumers, larding their books with excessive risk, and making bad bets that brought down the economy and forced taxpayer bailouts, the big Wall Street banks are not chastened,” she said. “They have fought to delay and hamstring the implementation of financial reform, and they will continue to fight every inch of the way.”

Warren noted that the country’s four largest banks are 30 percent larger than they were five years ago, and quoted a study claiming that government programs give the ten largest banks the equivalent of an $83 billion subsidy. Warren wants to shrink the size of the banks with a new Glass-Steagall, the Great Depression era act that separated commercial and investment banking.

In defense of the banks, the consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies sent out a response Thursday afternoon saying that mid-size banks had been experiencing the fastest growth.

Cruz picked Obama, the media, the intellectual elite, “radical Islamic” terrorists, and the Chinese and Russia governments. The Princeton and Harvard trained politician claimed that conservatives are victims of the ivory tower, but strong enough to stand up to global bullies.

“Bullies and tyrants don’t respect weakness or appeasement,” he said.

Use Your Villains’ Words Against Them – Warren decided to quote from a letter JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon wrote his shareholders: “Had there been stronger standards in the mortgage markets, one huge cause of the recent crisis might have been avoided.”

“You listen to President Obama, you listen to Secretary [of State] Kerry’s arguments for launching a military strike against Syria: they primarily derive from the need to defend an ‘international norm’ and to send a statement in defense of that international norm,” Cruz said. “A statement is fundamentally a press release. A statement is something that is quite welcome in a university faculty lounge. But it is not the appropriate focus of the U.S. military.”

Speak in Threes – For whatever reason, three is the magical number in organizing speeches. An audience can easily remember three critical ideas from a speaker, but they struggle with anything more than that.

Warren spoke in threes. She said, first, that in the three years since Dodd-Frank that there are still market distortions caused by large banks. Secondly, that the CFPB met its regulatory deadlines, so other agencies should as well. And thirdly, “The result is that the too big to fail problem remains,” she said.

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