While I don’t agree with Oliver that political protests are useless (they’re not the sole method of persuasion we should be using, but they’re not nothing, either, no matter how much David Brooks tells me they are), I do agree very much with this part of his post:
Conservatism may be a hell of a con job, but they are good at selling it. Liberals, on the other hand, are so convinced of the rightness of their cause they refuse to try and sell it to anyone. They (and by they I strongly include me) think that essentially saying “SEEEE??” will provoke a moment of enlightment in the subject and they’ll come around to it. It just doesn’t work that way. Cons sell their ideology as what will cure what ails you, even if the ailments are invented. Liberalism has the advantage of being an actual solution to problems, it only needs to actually be sold.
This party doesn’t need political consultants anymore. We need advertising consultants, is what we need. “Branding” types. People who can take the good ideas we already have (as opposed to yakking on Meet the Press about how we need new ideas) and, you know, let people know we have these ideas and they should vote for us.
Because it’s not a point A to point B to point C to GO VOTE for most people. They don’t think to themselves, “Hmm, my life really sucks right now. Republicans are in charge of all three branches of the federal government. Perhaps I should vote for Democrats instead.” They think to themselves, “Hmm, my life really sucks right now. Fuck all politicians. Fuck voting. And anyway, those Democrats are faggots.” Keep in mind this was the crowd that was startled that Bruce Springsteen had political opinions. We’re not dealing with sophisticated and well-informed reasoners.
We’re dealing with a mass audience. A mob, actually, of generally dissatisfied, more-often-than-not resentful, distracted people who’ve been told for years that politics isn’t important, partisanship is bad, gays are taking their marriages, immigrants are taking their jobs, and if we can just get this flag burning thing under control America will rock and roll once more.
I’m not saying we have to kiss up to bigots nor even dumb down or compromise our ideas for them. I am saying we have to consider our audience, something people do every day without acting like it’s some kind of intellectual affront. You don’t talk to your mom the way you talk to your co-workers (at least I don’t; hard as this may be to believe, Mom, I actually do try to watch my language around you) nor would you address the Pope the way you’d talk to the guys down at the hamburger place. If we understand who we’re addressing, who comes out to vote, then we can find a way to talk to them that will hit them right in the pulsating lizard brain the Republicans are so good at beating on.
We’ve got a bunch of people riled up and pissed off and now’s the time to tell them what to do with all that simmering anger and resentment. The Republican party jacked up a bunch of political three-year-olds on the policy equipvalents of coffee and pixi stix and now they’ve got to take the little rugrats home. Let’s whisper in the moppets’ ears about how much fun it would be to swing from the chandelier, draw on the walls, and take Daddy’s riding mower for a spin.