Dateline, Washington DC, November 4, 2020:
You didn’t read that wrong. If nothing changes, the Democrats will definitely sweep the 2020 elections. Yes, the Republicans are defending 22 seats in the Senate against just 12 on the Democrat side. Yes, prognosticators right now are saying that little, if anything, will change in the makeup of the Senate. Yes, the House changed majority in 2018 and that’s already in the Dems column. And Yes, Donald Trump is the encumbent which carries powerful weight in the voting booth. So why the gloomy headline (gloomy if you’re a Republican or Conservative?) Because the M&M’s will make the difference. Messaging and Millenials.
There needs to be a wakeup call for the Republican National Committee, because continuing along with the standard Republican modus operandi will result in a failure of catastrophic proportions. And not just for the Republican party – but for the entire country. Why point out messaging? Because in spite of the good things that Republicans stand for, they can’t seem to generate any buzz, and without buzz in today’s world you are without voters. Think about it – the entirety of social media and cable news is about buzz. Get on the right side of it and you win. It doesn’t matter that every policy line item in a conservative agenda makes for a sustainable, secure society. Snore. It doesn’t matter that most, if not all, of those line items have actually improved in people’s opinions in the last 2 years. Crickets. The Republicans are always 2-5 percentage points behind Democrats in all the “who do you favor” for “this-or-that-policy” polls. For years Republicans have known that they need to do a better job of messaging, but never change their tactics. Republicans just can’t get out of their own way.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that Donald Trump won in 2016 because he knew how to create a buzz. Maybe part of that ability was because he wasn’t really a typical Republican. Here’s one big distinction between Republicans and Democrats: Reason v. Emotion. Republicans (and even some Republican politicians) are generally people with principles and a solid moral compass. They think through issues and make their determinations grounded on facts. Without question it’s the best way to govern – and also without question, it’s the worst way to campaign. Democrats (and 100% of democrat politicians), on the other hand do just the opposite. They respond to emotions. Pictures of children in cages make them weepy and willing to vote for open borders. Hearing hyperbolic predictions of the earth boiling up under clouds of toxic greenhouse gases will make them consider buses, bicycles, and green new deals. Of course, none of that is reality on the ground, but that’s irrelevant to a Democrat. They campaign with wild empty slogans like “I’m for jobs” with no actual ideas behind them. Who could really be against jobs? They use phrases like “we can’t rip babies out of mother’s arms” because we’re the party that ‘cares’ about children, while at the same time voting for late term abortions. They never campaign on taking away guns. Instead they show images of school shootings and then shout that “we need common sense gun control.” They are masters of these tactics. How can a rational person look at school shooting images and not agree with gun control. The fact that their proposals simply want to take guns away from law-abiding citizens is immaterial. It’s a horrible and hollow way to govern, but it’s a surefire winner at the voting booth.
How to fix it: Forget what you think are the good points of Republican policies – that requires people to think. Create your campaign around the disastrous results of Democrat policies – and make them emotionally charged – and of course blame some Democrat personally. Show pictures of homeless tent-cities and make the claim that this is the result of Democrat wealth re-distribution policies. Say that Democrats are ‘personally responsible’ for it, that Democrats have blood on their hands. Call it Pelosi Town perhaps. It doesn’t matter that a thoughtful person wouldn’t connect the dots. You’re not looking for the thoughtful votes. And for goodness sake, don’t cite the constitution about protecting gun rights, freedom of speech, due process, equal justice, or religious freedoms. Sure, you’re behind the constitution, and on solid footing with citizens who think those things are the very fabric of a successful country. No one will care where you stand if you lose your seat. You can’t be up at a podium and tout all the freedoms that you’re in favor of. More crickets. Guaranteed loser. Never make the cardinal mistake of claiming that you’re for something. You’ve got to demonstrate the emotional side of being against losing those freedoms. You must BLAME the other side and hang an emotional tag on them! Messaging problem solved.
Now add Millenials into the equation. Like it or not, they are part of the crazy-quilt of voters. Making disparaging remarks about them getting participation trophies, being snowflakes, and needing safe spaces is not how you win friends and influence voters This bloc polls pretty solidly as favoring socialism more than capitalism. A few points higher every year in fact. New polls show this group is now about 52% pro-socialism. From a Republican perspective (read understanding history so you don’t repeat it), this is absolute insanity. But responses like: “they just don’t understand what socialism really is”, or “how can they say that stuff while using a smartphone and wearing $100 sneakers”, won’t resonate it will alienate. To succeed with this group Republicans will need to ‘feel like they feel’. Don’t be condescending – be understanding. Republicans need to take a vastly different approach to this group. They have wants and needs just like everyone else in the country. Appeal – emotionally – to those needs. You can’t make statements like “socialism is a disaster”, you need to get millennials to make that statement for you. Use images of Venezuela maybe. (Let me just add that nobody can feel anything but sadness and compassion for all Venezuelans right now, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.) There has to be lots of footage of Venezuelans looking for dinner in dumpster, or going barefoot, or not having electricity. Make the forceful case that these images are the direct fault of Bernie’s policies. He has this blood on his hands. So what if he had nothing directly to do with Venezuela, he supports that government. Make him come out and reject it. Make him try to defend his policies with reason instead of emotion. He can’t do it. Then watch his supporters slip away. And when they do, Mr. or Mrs. Republican candidate, you will be right there with your emotional open arms for a cuddle. I understand your pain, I can help you avoid that disaster, I just need your vote.
Oh, and by the way, there’s a slim chance that Republicans can avoid that headline.