Once again, conservatives have shown they are better at branding then liberals.
The Squad, the group of six progressive Congress people, Jamaal Bowman of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, all voted against the Biden infrastructure bill because it didn’t include the climate change and social services upgrades that have been tossed over into another bill. Okay, it was a procedural move, made only because they knew the bill as amended would pass with or without their votes.
But I want to talk about the name they’ve given themselves. In particular because the eight Republicans (I’ll give them the real party name since they were good guys on this vote) who voted for the bill, Don Bacon of Nebraska, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Tom Reed of New York, Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey and Fred Upton of Michigan, are calling themselves the Problem Solvers Caucus. Yes, I know there are moderate Democratic members of this caucus, making it somewhat bipartisan, but it’s the Republicans in the caucus that are getting the press while the Democrats are being seen as merely going along with their party’s president.
Let’s face facts. The Squad is what a bunch of urban hipsters would call themselves, a quasi super hero team name that implies something but I couldn’t tell you what. “Hey let’s get The Squad together and go out to that new Indian Mexican fusion spot over on Tenth Avenue”. The Problem Solvers Caucus tells you exactly what they are about. Are they really about problem solving? In the world of politics no title ever truly gives a clear picture as to what the group is about. Except CREEP, the Committee to Re-elect The President, the one that was intricately woven into the Watergate saga. Yeah they were a bunch of CREEPs.
It comes down to perception. The Squad voted against a bill that will give millions of people jobs. The Problem Solvers Caucus voted for giving all those people new jobs, i.e, they solved a problem. Now come later this month when the bill with all the climate change and social services stuff in it comes up for a vote and they vote against it their name might be mud, but for the moment (and in politics it’s all about the moment), it’s the Problem Solvers who solved a problem and the Squad who said we’re not even interested in getting some pork projects for our own home districts, but I’ll have a double whip, no foam half-caf Vente mocha to go. The only thing they gave their districts was the finger. At least that’s how it’s perceived.
And the Repugnicant Party will make sure all the campaign ads, even the ones for the 200 odd members of the House riding the magic Faux News bandwagon who voted against the bill, will tout how they are the party of the Problem Solvers. Those who oppose them, you know those Urban (nee Black), Greedy (nee Jewish), Intellectuals (nee anyone smarter than you), they don’t really have their constituents concerns at heart. It’s nothing but a dog whistle to this week’s flavor of the moment voting bloc, white women with no college education.
Good luck winning re-election or retaining the House running against that.
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Liberals have never been good about branding, but they are good at optics. Bill Clinton hugging an Oklahoma City bombing survivor is great optics. Calling the health care reform bill The Affordable Care Act was as boring as weak tea. Democrats lucked out when Repugnicants tried to deride it as Obamacare, only to have that name work in the laws favor. How did that get turned around? Brevity is the soul of political sloganeering, a truism liberals need to learn.
Repugnicants are lousy at optics but great at branding. Even in our visually obsessed culture, the branding wins out over the image. Besides, they’ve learned how easy it is to say a picture is not what it is a picture of. The January 6th insurrection is a perfect example. Look how they have branded it as over zealous tourists and swathes of the American public are buying it. Violent overthrow of the US government? No, no, no, that’s what pinko commies do, not those nice young Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. The further out they go on the right the craftier their branding becomes. Ever heard of the Pacific Justice Institute? Gee, justice in the Pacific what can be bad about….oh they’re a virulent anti-gay hate organization that has been branded a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center? They’re the legal teams behind many of the lawsuits challenging vaccine laws and the very idea of public education? But the name seemed so innocent!
The history of conservatives being better at the brand game goes back a long way. But the most egregious example comes from the days surrounding the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling. Those opposed to abortion immediately branded themselves as “Pro-Life” and by extension were branding anyone in opposition as “Anti-Life”. Instead of screaming at the top of their lungs that those opposed to abortion were not pro-life but rather just anti-abortion they allowed the anti side to take a moral high ground. After all, who wants to be associated with anyone anti-life? I mean life’s a good thing, isn’t it?
By the way, what do we call those who are pro abortion rights? Is there a catchy one and a half word moniker that quickly and easily sums up that position even if it’s horribly and unfairly not saying anything about the real reasons for that stance like the so called Pro-Lifers? Pro-Choice? What the hell does that mean especially for women for whom there is no choice. Besides it fails to convey the concept that abortion is a private, personal, and often agonizing decision that one in three women in America have had to or will have to make.
How about “Stay the Hell Out of My Business”? Maybe an acronym, SHOMB. Rhyme it with womb.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the vast majority of the American public is easily manipulated by branding. We don’t teach Critical Ra.., er, Critical Thinking in public schools. That might be the greatest ticking time bomb Repugnicants put in place with the No Child Left Behind law. Teach for the tests became the standard for public education, less you fear the loss of your job Mr. Kotter. No time for that pesky allegorical discussion of the trolley problem. Don’t leave any time in the school day for extended debate or even just time to gaze out the window and wonder at the glory of nature. No, teach for the test. We will tell you what to think and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Just learn the slogan, learn the brand, don’t try to understand what lies beneath.
Fascism creeps up on you, don’t it?