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Monday, August 12, 2019



by Tom Sullivan

Liberals' affinity of novelty means they are more open to trying new foods, new experiences, etc. A tolerance for ambiguity and disorganization makes them more flexible in problem-solving. Much of that is old news. Liberals also tend more towards complexity in speaking and writing. "Liberals lecture, conservatives communicate," a February study's title suggests. Those traits sometimes work against each other.

That thirst for novelty and complexity means the left has trouble crafting a direct message and repeating it. But liberals may finally be exhibiting that famous flexibility by adopting a simple message, sticking with it, and thereby sticking it to their opponents.

Digby pointed Sunday to a Washington Post story about Donald Trump's frustration at being branded a racist:

Following a month in which he leveled racist attacks on four congresswomen of color, maligned majority-black Baltimore as a “rat and rodent infested mess” and saw his anti-immigrant rhetoric parroted in an alleged mass shooter’s statement, the risk for Trump is that the pejorative that has long dogged him becomes defining.

Being called a racist has infuriated Trump, gnawing at him in recent days as he lashes out — in tweets and in public comments — over the moniker, behavior his advisers and allies excuse as the natural reaction of anyone who does not consider himself a racist but is accused of being one.

“For them to throw out the race word again — racist, racist, racist,” Trump told reporters Friday as he departed the White House for a week-long vacation at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They call anybody a racist when they run out of cards.”
Repetition works.

Trump spent years marketing himself as a brand. He is accustomed to negatively branding adversaries and having it stick. Republicans, too, brand their opponents with simplistic messages endlessly repeated: socialism, socialism, socialism. They are accustomed to seeing those attacks go unanswered in any consistent way. Lately, however, their favored weapon is being turned against him.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is feeling that bite as well. Branded for his refusal to advance legislation to secure 2020 elections against Russian hacking, the trending hashtag #MoscowMitch has McConnell seething. He has tried hurling the epithet of McCarthyism at adversaries for using it. So far, to little avail.

Matthew Rozsa writes at Slate:
McConnell isn't being accused of sympathy to Moscow because his opponents lack valid grounds for criticism and are resorting to a straw man fallacy. He is being accused of this because his political actions are inscrutable except as those of a man who so badly wants his party to win that he doesn't care if Russia needs to be empowered for that to happen.
Twitter may not be a representative cross-section of America, but neither is Trump's base. With Trump addicted to it, his base follows it. Now they are being bombarded by negative branding of both Trump and McConnell.

Even before social media took off, using relentless repetition Republicans branded Al Gore a serial fabulist. Republican delegates to the 2004 convention mocked John Kerry's Purple Hearts by sporting purple band-aids. Naturally, Republicans expect their opponents to conform to polite norms of behavior they themselves violate with abandon. In combat that's called asymmetrical warfare. The left, at least off Capitol Hill, no longer accepts being suckers. Social media, used effectively, is biting back.

A recent Morning Consult poll placed McConnell's approval rating at 36 percent in Kentucky (50 percent negative), the lowest of any senator in the country. There is not an app for doing that. It simply requires the left to tamp down its impulse for novelty, to adopt a simple, direct message, and to repeat it ad nauseam. Opponents' nauseam.

The left has finally figured out they can brand the hell out of them using social media. Turns out repetition is some kind of miracle tech, huh?