There has been a lot of criticism of Gabriel Gomez’s ‘Klan’ comments here on Red Mass Group. Such criticism is well deserved. Mr. Gomez’s comments are not becoming of an aspirant to public office at any level let alone the US Senate.
But what can readers of RMG–as GOP activists, candidates and office holders–learn from this incident? I offer three take aways from the Gomez brouhaha.
1. Shoot at Your Opponents, Not Your Supporters. As a former Navy Seal, Mr. Gomez should know that battles are never won by firing on one’s own troops. The same is true in politics. Sure there will be times when those on the GOP side may frustrate or make you mad. That’s natural. But take a lesson from our opponents. Diminish but don’t disparage those on our side you disagree with. In 2008, when the Jeremiah Wright controversy surfaced, Obama likened Wright to “an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/… With the attention span of the public these days chances are that would have been the end of it (it was only when Wright made disparaging comments about Obama that he was thrown under the bus). Gomez should have taken a page from Obama’s playbook. Downplay controversy with those on our side. Don’t engage in friendly fire. Shoot outward, not inward.
2. Don’t Pick Fights With The Media. There’s an old political adage that goes “don’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel”. In the electronic age, that could be updated to “don’t pick a fight with someone who buys bandwidth by the terabyte”. The media has far more ability to shape public opinion than any candidate or individual. Best to not provoke them. That goes for social media and bloggers as well as print and TV. In the context of the Gomez ‘Klan’ comments, everything I learned about the incident comes from RMG (I read RMG daily. I never go on Facebook). Editors Eno and Pinto shaped the set of information available to me about Mr. Gomez’s comments and the context. Even if Gomez were in the right, I would never have known. As GOP activists, it’s true that the media will usually be against us. That goes with the territory. Keep control. Hold your tongue. Don’t go after the media. Don’t let them shape the field of battle against us. Zip it up. Go after our opponents.
3. Keep Control. Don’t Make Over The Top Comments. Exploit Your Opponents When They Do. Mr. Gomez is fortunate that his comments were taken as an attack on Mr. Eno and Mr. Pinto or a swipe at part of his own party. A skillfull opponent could have exploited the ‘Klan’ comment to much more damaging effect. For instance, one could say “I find Mr. Gomez’s comments offensive on a much deeper level than simply an attack on two individuals. Comparison to the Klan diminishes the real suffering and fear that millions of African-Americans, Catholics and Jews experienced at the hands of the Klan.” That would put Mr. Gomez on the defensive with thousands of minority and religious voters, not just two party activists. This is a powerful type of response for GOP activists because those on the left are much more prone than we are to over-the-top comparisons than we are. The left was fond of equating George Bush http://www.foxnews.com/story/2… and Romney http://reason.com/blog/2012/03… to Hitler. Maybe they’ll try that sort of stuff with you too. If they do, turn it around. Nobody wants a hater or hothead in public office. Respond to their over-the-top comments by exposing them for what they are.