November 18, 2012
THOUGHTS ON MESSAGING FROM READER RICHARD FRANKEL:
In Intellectuals, Paul Johnson’s evisceration of Marx’s empirical work and discussion of Marx’s theories changed my thinking.
Arguments that have little factual or a priori support can have lasting and significant influence.
The key to attracting adherents is presenting the idea in poetical terms that inflame flaws in human nature. Marx had the ability to select clichés that resonated with envy and the wish to believe in miraculous solutions to the problem of scarcity and self-fulfillment. He assured believers his ideas were “scientific” and moral.
Republicans better consider this reality when confronting Obama’s “rich are not paying their fair share” argument.
Countering with “taxing the rich more will not appreciably reduce the deficit” or “this will hurt small business” or giving statistics showing the rich pay quite a bit already will be inadequate. Logic and facts are inadequate. Envy and scapegoating of the successful Americans will only grow as Obama’s policies devastate the poor. Republicans must counter with a similarly emotional argument (e.g. “Obama policies are enriching the Washington elite.”). The Republicans must also call Obama out for inflaming “envy and hatred” so the public cannot be comforted that taxing the rich is altruistic. Yelling “class warfare” is too sanitized to elicit a competing public emotion.
Republicans must also fight Obama’s idea of “a balanced approach.” Republicans must confront the argument that government spending helps the poor and therefore cuts must be offset by increased taxes. Point to all the programs that merely enrich the elite (e.g., NPR and windmills). Show how, under Obama, the Washington suburbs have grown wealthy while other places in the country have grown poor.
Yes, the Hunger Games argument seems quite well-founded.