One of the primary reasons the right has been merely the mucus trail of the left is language. More precisely, the right’s failure to understand and deploy language strategically. To establish mental frames and place themselves in advantageous terminological position vis-a-vis their enemies. So much human communication is meta, and the left–to their credit and their nations’ misery–have been competent managers of these unfiltered and evocative channels.
The percentage of people who premise their behaviors and politics on purely logical inputs and reasoned dialectic does not round up from zero. There is a cohort capable of reaching general conclusions about their own interests, but mostly people are moved by emotions: fear, greed, hate, lust.
The language one uses to transport information speaks far more effectively to these powerful behavioral engines than the objective facts they are nominally intended to bear. Some of these messages within the language messenger are so obvious even a vice president could understand them.
For instance, by the time they’re out the door most people have realized that We’d like to offer you the opportunity to pursue more lucrative advancement opportunities outside the company actually means you’ve been fired in favor of a gibbering H1B Indian working for half your salary. The communication was all subtext, but still perfectly clear upon reflection. But much of the political variety is not clear; or not clear to most people.
When media organs dryly report that a group of neo-nazis convened at the Ronald Reagan building in downtown D.C. on Saturday they are not actually attempting to convey the time and date of a meeting. They are instead screaming fear of and hate for their enemies into the absorbent subconscious of their readers. Language carries the actual message, not the sentence’s subject and predicate.
If this had been instead a confab of non-white racial advocates, it would have been a civil-rights meeting at the Ronald Reagan building. Again, the point would not have been to convey time and place, but to provide an endorsement via the positive connotation in terms. A corollary to that endorsement of non-white racial advocacy is the implication that expressed opposition will earn an oppositional term: like ‘neo-nazi’ for instance.
And because the bulk of the bell curve is comprised of gulls and moral opportunists (to say nothing of its left-flank) this language ordnance is sufficient to sway millions in the middle just by the disparity in terms: civil rights are good and no one wants to be a nazi.
Unfortunately, conservatives seem to have a native immunity against understanding this. That conclusion was reinforced reading about the interactions between VP-elect Mike Pence and the antagonistic cast of Broadway’s Hamilton. Personally, I would just as soon extract my ear drums with fish hooks than subject them to such caterwauling. So why Pence would even bother to attend this musical is a mystery, when he could have as easily seen The Cure in concert. An event that in comparison would have been just like Heaven.
For those few who aren’t familiar with this admittedly stale story, Pence was jeered lustily by New York’s effete theater patrons, who would have likely all been shot dead with pistols had Alexander Hamilton himself been in attendance. Following this display, and in accordance with liberals’ bumper sticker mentality that requires every party within earshot to be advised of their convictions on the faint chance they aren’t already, the cast itself took the opportunity to upbraid the insolently attending politician.
“We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” Dixon said, reading off a piece of paper. “But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
We all know what true message was carried beneath the veneer.
We non-whites expect a continuation of passive prostration to our perpetually increasing demands. As such, we truly hope this display of hatred and contempt has intimidated you into adopting an appropriately submissive posture as you assume the vice presidency.
That wasn’t particularly difficult to translate. Though Mr. Pence mangled it badly nonetheless. Speaking to the press, he responded by showering his antagonists with encomiums. This being an example of the eternal republican gambit: punish your friends and reward your enemies.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Sunday referred to the boos and lecturing he received when he went to see the Broadway musical “Hamilton” on Friday night as “what freedom sounds like.”
Pence said he “wasn’t offended by what was said” by one the lead actors during the curtain call.
On Sunday, Pence, in his first public statements about the aftermath, called the production a “great show” and insisted that his family “really enjoyed being there.”
He suggested he would “leave to others whether that was the appropriate venue” to express that message — instead, he asserted that the message was understood.
Pence went as far as to suggest others “go to see” the “great show.
You won’t believe how to lose the narrative with this one weird trick!
Obviously Pence is striving to maintain a presidential demeanor that is magnanimous and accommodating to the myriad competing factions of “Diverse America.” What he is not striving to do, however, is establish a context that is conducive to winning in the future.
Just as black advocacy is civil-rights and white advocacy is literally Hitler, consider the two poles of this Hamilton frame that Pence himself has labored to secure.
Diverse America: Our opponents are hate-bigots deserving only of mockery, lectures, and derision.
Legacy America: Our opponents are “what freedom sounds like.” And boy do they put on a great show!
We should all understand how these linguistic contours funnel observers toward the left as surely as a gutter funnels rain off a roof. Watching these exchanges, people subconsciously internalize the meta hate/fear risk in aligning with the right. While no such risk premium is attached to the left. By the uncontested statements of both sides, the right is oppression while the left is freedom. Which do you think will exert the greater gravitational pull on millions who want only to occupy an emotional safe space? If I say you are evil as you say I’m a swell guy, don’t be surprised when your children are my acolytes.
If Trump is to have any lasting impact, he must jettison the Art of the Deal in favor of the Art of the Word. He’d be amazed at how high is its return on investment.