Monday, August 1, 2016

How should we talk about political opponents?

Politicians  love to insult their opponents.  Watching Trump and his pawns use words like "stupid", "evil", "crooked", and "liars" proves the point.

That is not helpful - not to society as a whole, nor to their election chances.  Why not?  Because while it engages the faithful, it does not convince the independents and worse, it enrages the victims of that name calling.

Because that's what it is, just name calling.  Even when it's true, (yes, both sides - Democrats and Republicans - have stupid, crooked liars working for them), it in no way convince any real independent to vote for them.

Frankly, it's like a small child calling another child 'poopy head' - it doesn't convince an adult they are right, it just makes you look childish and pisses of the independent.  Pure Insults (where the character and nature of the activity is by definition wrong/evil), are LESS effective than claims of excess (where you imply that "it's OK to do this a little, but that is just way too much.")

So, if those kinds of insults don't work, what does?

Here are a few words to call your opponent, that actually increase your political chances, rather than just make your base happy:

In the pocket of big...
Politically Correct
Religious Fanatic
Virulent Atheist
overly trusting
Asleep at the wheel/negligent

For example, I could call Donald Trump a callous, arrogant paranoid, partisan, racist.   Or the GOP could use other words on that list to describe Hillary.

The advantages of these words, are clear I am avoiding ascribing an evil motivation, and instead describing character flaws.  I make no claim that Donald Trump wants to do evil, just that he will make major mistakes because he doesn't know better.   You can be all of those things and STILL get into heaven.

Why is this important?

1)   When you attack motivation, you are making a claim that is both very hard to prove and unlikely for you to have any real evidence of it.  If you did, you would be pressing charges, rather than having to convince people not to vote for them.  No one is going to vote Madoff (an actual crook) into the White House.  If they were really that bad, they would be in Jail, rather than have convinced many good people to vote for them.   Everyone knows you have no real evidence of the crooked/evil/bad motivation, and your words get dismissed as just a partisan attack.

2)  They can explain how they got other people to vote for them without insulting the character of their supporters.  It's OK for me to like someone that's reckless - that person may have done a lot of good work even if they are reckless.  Similarly, the focus ceases to be on the nature, but instead on the extremeness, i.e. you can be religious but still decide not to vote for a religious fanatic.

3)  They don't involve assumptions that ONLY your own people make.  Almost everyone thinks that being reckless is wrong, and they also think that being paranoid is wrong.   It's not like claiming that they are horrible spendthrifts.

Calling Hillary "crooked" will not convince anyone not to vote for her.  Only people that dislike her will believe you.  It's not convincing.   It won't affect her supporters, and doesn't do much to the independents.  If she really were crooked, the FBI would have arrested her, and they didn't.

But if you call her ignorant of proper security procedures, quite a few Democrats would agree with you, and you might convince independents to vote against her.

Similarly, calling Trump evil won't do anything to any Republicans or independents. But if you bring up the fact that he never EVER admits he or anyone working for him was wrong - whether you are talking about plagiarized speeches, stopping all Muslim from entering the country, whether Hispanics and women vote for him - then you make independents question whether they can trust him and remind Republicans that he is not what the party wants.

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