Why does the GOP have the monopoly on labeling ?

During the election anything and everything Kerry was labeled seemed to catch on… from the ad-like “flip flop”… to the “weak on terror”. Long before the election… the word “liberal” has become an offensive slander term… with “bleeding heart” variations. Even “democratic” has been slandered.

On the otherside… not a single thing stuck on Bush… no adjectives like stupid, warmonger or big spender. Nada… nothing ! Neo-Con maybe a bit… I imagine they tried to get Bush “labeled”… but failed. Or they didn’t try ?

This labeling works so well that just about every voter associates fiscal responsibility with the Republican party... and after Reagan and Bush that is certainly not true !

So how come only conservatives manage to get slander and negative terms to stick ?  Is it the language ? Do church e-mails and bulletins make a better way of sticking labels ? Or are liberals "label" averse ?

This isn’t true. Bush got the stupid label, and it stuck hard. Even Bush supporters often start their praises of Bush with “look, I know the guy’s not bright, but…”

The problem is that the label doesn’t play as negatively as liberals think it should. Bush’s image is that of a down home, straight talking guy. That, along with stupid, may all be an act, but it resonates far better with positive ideas about the candidate than it does with negative ones, at least from his base.

I’m not to sure the “stupid” label actually stuck… it became more “non-intelectual” which is good for electoral purposes. (With the general population of course)

The “stupid” label didn’t stick because their opponents were elitist intellectuals out of touch with the mainstream. It made Bush look more down to earth by comparison.

I think that the right has the edge on labelling because they (and their press machine) repeat it enough for it to stick. That is the only way to get these things to work.

It may not be “labelling” so much as issue framing. One well-respected liberal analyst, George Lakoff, a linguistics professor at UC Berkley, believes the Republicans have successfully “dicatated the terms of national debate” by framing issues in such a way as to make their own postions seem the natural or moral positions, and all others to be wrong or immoral. (See the interview here in UC Berkley News where Lakoff expounds on the topic.)

One should be aware that Lakoff’s views on this subject are not universally accepted among political observers (here’s an example from noted political blogster Kevin Drum critiquing Lakoff), but it seems inarguable that the GOP has developed both the media infrastructure and the party discipline necessary to get their message out in a unified way. And that’s probably the key difference in effectiveness between the major parties at this point.

Being a liberal, I believe the Democratic positions on most issues -in general- are both better grounded in practical knowledge and fairer, wiser approaches to public policy. However, the public debate on issues in this country is not based on practical grounding or on forward thinking policy; it’s based on appeal to basic morality. Republicans win this public debate because they describe each issue in simple phrasing which goes right to middle America’s moral center, and they follow the phrasebook in lockstep with each other. So what if the results -and even in many cases the intent- of their policies go against middle American moral beliefs in a strong middle class, compassion for the disadvantaged, good stewardship of the land, minimum government intrusion into privacy and equal opportunity? It doesn’t matter, because that’s all background, and invisible to the casual consumer of the Republican message.

One practical course left to the Dems would be to follow the strategies of the “Gingrich revolution”, and be actively obstructionist to this President in all things while unifying behind party talking points which appeal to that American moral center in simplistic and often disingenuous terms. It’s a nasty way to pursue politics, and frankly it plays much more to conservative strengths than to liberal strengths. (Not a put-down of conservatives. It’s just more in the nature of conservatism to pursue winner-take-all strategies.) However, we’re fighting against a quarter-century of concerted Republican efforts to gain undisputed power; power they unabashedly want to use to institutionalize an antidemocratic and notably elitist political landscape.

It would be nice if we had a political dialogue in this country in which the many great strengths of conservative political philosophy (caution, responsibility, fairness, honesty…) contributed to strong and vital small-“r” republican governance. But we don’t have that kind of dialogue. We may have to destroy the Republican party in order to save it. ( :wink: ) --But that’s a bit more palatable to me than the GOP strategy, which seems to be to destroy the Democratic party in order to scatter its bones, rip out its grass roots and salt the earth where it stood.

A different strategy (and the one I prefer) would be to oppose and highlight only the more extreme political gambits of this second term administration (and you know they’re coming; “public mandate” and all that) while pushing coherent alternative messages to the public. Unified opposition by the Democrats to single-issue right wing judicial appointments, to privatization of Social Security, to anti-choice efforts and to arrogant and unilateral foreign policy initiatives must be presented in unequivocal language which must “frame the issue” in a way that’s consistent with liberal ideals. No obstructionism without a very public display of opposition presented in absolute moral terms. Complete behind the scenes cooperation in all other legislative efforts, even when compromise results in conservative “victories”. The small battles don’t matter. Only political capital matters.

It would be nice if this second strategy were accompanied by avoidance of pork barrel politics, but one can only ask so much I suppose.

Because they own all the major media outlets.

It occured to me that Kerry’s response to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth should have been: “Hey, I’m a swift boat veteran. I like truth. Maybe I should join their organization and see what I can contribute to their efforts.” With any luck, that would force the group to redefine itself as “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and George Bush” or “SBV against Kerry” or otherwise abandon their euphamistic name. If they clung to their name, they’d either have to meet with Kerry (giving him a chance to confront his accusers) or dodge him (making them look less than honorable).

Ah, if only this had occured to me a month ago, and if only I had some clout with the Kerry campaign, or even be an American citizen, for that matter. C’est la vie.

They have no monopoly on labeling. Each side had its own mud to sling. At the end of the day though what the Rebublicans had that the Democrats didn’t was a few central core beliefs: Offensive is better the defensive, freedom is better than oppression, and that being a LEADER means that sometimes you have to drag others along even when they don’t like it.

This is interesting, because I don’t think it has anything to do with either semantics or politics - it’s clever marketing. And as any clever PR guy knows, it
starts by identifying a need the consumer has.

Ever since Al Reis and Jack Trout wrote Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind back in '81, the way advertising is done has been completely changed. Basically, they advocate changing the product, not trying to sway the consumer.
By constantly re-defining how a product is perceived, you keep up to date with Joe Sixpack and keep appealing to his tastes. And it’s both a lot easier to change what you controll on your on side, i.e. your product and organization, than to spend millions on trying to change the mind of the public.

But what has this to do with the GOP? Well everything.
If you look at how they have re-defined the conservative platform since 1968 and check in what ways the Dems have changed, you’ll notice that the GOP of today is not very much like the GOP of Nixon or even Reagan. Strange as it may seem, the conservative party moves with the times, while the so called progressive party is still harping on the same issues they did in the 70’s.

It seems both sides agrre that this latest election dealt with morality and security. The GOP had a thing going for it with 9/11, some say. I don’t think so. They used 9/11 to their advantage and took the initiative. Bush had the gavel and could set the agenda. WMD? Unheard of before the Iraq debacle, at least among the general public. Partial-Birth abortions? Huh? Wha dat? thought the reporters at the press briefing, and so Bush got to define the words.

By keeping an ear to the ground the GOP is clearly in tune and in touch with the worries of everyday Americans and can constantly exploit that. Activist judges? What that? Homeland Security? Patriot act?
Words loaded with values, words clearly designed to reach the emotions of the voters, not the minds.

There are some very clever marketing people working with Bush.

It’ll be a fine day when people like Rush Limbaugh crawl out of their ivory radio studios, shut their mouths, and open their ears. Must be great to make a fortune just running your mouth all day. :cool:

And, if you argue with 'em, they’ll just cut you off because you know too much! :smiley:

“…still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

  • Jinx

Ok lets cover the practical side of things… besides having good “PR” and marketing people… how does the GOP and conservatives get out their message ? Especially outside election times.
Do they resort to throwing thing in Church bulletins ? Do they have a better organized contact with community and local papers ?

Things like slandering the term “liberal” didn’t happen overnight !

They talk to the press, and they all use the same language. Party discipline and talking points. That’s 90% of it. It doesn’t even take a biased press corps, just a lazy press corps. The Republicans know how to force feed a meme into the public consciousness, and it doesn’t happen by being first with the phrasing, it happens by being loud, consistent and unified.

If all the Democrat guests on the talking head shows and in legislative newsletters and individual speeches are giving their own interpretations of particular bills or even on general approaches to policy, their message (however impressively delivered) is a weak one. Because the Republicans will all be using the same language, and Bob Talkingheadpundit will repeat the language he hears over and over and Joe Sixpack will start thinking about the issue in those terms. Especially if Joe’s never considered the issue before hearing the GOP talking points.

That’s where you’re wrong. Because they’re exploting something that’s already there. 9/11 created an atmosphere which could readily be used to pitch a war in Iraq (no matter what the reasons are, that’s been debated to death here). Joe Sixpack was already fuming about them damn ragheads, so the sell was easy. Whip up “weapons of massdestruction”, which of course all the big states have, but now in the hands of :gasp: terrorists and rogue states and there it is.

It’s really no different from MickyD starting to push sallads and healthier food in order to change the profile of the company. it’s easier for them to change than it is to convince the whole world that greasy burgers, fries and shakes are health food. McD is in the business of providing fast food, it doesn’t matter if it’s sallads or burgers.
And the GOP is in business to govern. The way to get there is to change the party to fit the needs of the costumer, not trying to change the mind of the costumer.

I think this is so true, it bears repeating:

They all use the same language

My severe liberalism makes my reading hard… could you make it bigger ? :smiley:

Is there another reason they all use the same language ?

I think you’re assuming, and correct me if I’m wrong, that the leadership of this administration and their party created the Iraq war “product” to fill a public need after 9/11, and that this is emblematic of the GOP approach to governance. Ever heard of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC)? Includes such right wing luminaries as William Kristol and Robert Kagan, and features statements and supporting letters from administration figures such as Wolfowitz, Abrams and Rumsfeld. They’ve been pushing an Iraq takeover since at least the late 90’s .

The “customer” never even thought of returning to giant deficits, cutting veterans benefits or reducing fines for polluters. The customer purchased the sales pitch of moral values. The other stuff was never mentioned.

It could be argued that they’re all using the same “obvious” descriptive terms for the issues because the issues are all so basic and simple that few other terms would be suitable. That’s a weak argument, I think, but someone could (and probably will) make it.

Nice “core beliefs”… Let’s be offensive to the world and piss everyone off, claim that Democrats are “oppressive” (like, OK…), and let the people know that even though a plan may be unpopular, stupid, poorly laid out, decietful, it gosh darn just needs to be carried out, however much the poor (oppressive?) Democrats disagree.

I like my core beliefs better. Not interfering in international affairs without strong cause and support, security for the population is more important than crusades, and accountability for actions.

But hey, some people don’t mind being lied to point blank, others don’t. Who am I to say that people like Mr. Carroll baaah when commonded?

Remember folks, its those sneaky Democrats who hate freedom and love oppression. Except with gays. And women. And minorities. And foreigners. And hte poor. But the rest, all oppressive.


Simply: Perception is reality.

The public need and demand as costumers of government after 9/11 was security, which was used to sell the Iraq war.
But it ain’t about the Iraq war, it’s about recognizing the desire the public has and using that to further your own agenda. The GOP has been very good at this, shifting focus from one core value to another in the public debate to gain support.
With that support, they can push both core values. As this election showed - large deficit was not an issue and Kerry could argue about that all he wanted with little or no effect. Security was and still is a big issue for Americans.

n.b. I don’t think this is wrong or sneaky. I do think it’s clever.