I have a hypothesis that I doubt I can prove nor do I really have time to engage in the research, but thought like many half-baked ideas I’d let the larger community judge them and even take them up. I know there has been a lot of discussion over the relative surprise expressed by republicans in analyzing the election and then losing the presidential race. I have seen some really partisan examples of denouement of the Grand Old Party.
I have a thought led by comments by leading conservative voices that may give some understanding to what happened last Tuesday. Regardless of political party it might be interesting if we could look at data sets that support or refute the idea. I’m not sure they exist. There are several authors that talk about this and if I mangle any of their concepts my apologies. This is work notes not an academic journal article so please be play nice.
I think that the republican messaging strategy took a view of the world as categorically more polarized. If we were to look at the tactics and strategy of the republican party through that lens it would have been based on a perception of a polarized graph. This kind of graph is a bi-modal distribution or “well curve”. See the image for a view the republican strategy might have seen the world as…
Some of the message content may have been external to the republican strategy and placed upon them by the democrats. That is the nature of politics that you can only choose part of your narrative. Some evidence to the polarized view is found in the Republican parties planks and some anecdotal evidence suggested by the presidential candidate.
- There are 47% that aren’t us (paraphrased) but this shows the “we” and “them” mentality instantiated.
- Exclusion of populations based on societal caste, business ownership, wealth creation, sexual preference, age, race, and birth citizenship.
- Continual identification of platform as conservative versus liberal.
The list is representative and not held as evidence other than perception of messaging goals and strategy.
On the other hand messaging of the democrats was extensively moderated and numerous “liberal” values were moderated during the entire election cycle. The messaging strategy of the democrats appeared to be based on a perception of a normalized curve. The target audience of normalized curve is going to be a much more moderate and inclusive campaign. In both formal and informal messaging the idea is to swing a large contingent of moderate voters by being receptive and mirroring their concerns. This strategy eschews the hyperbolic polarization tactic for the moderate inclusivity tactic in messaging.
Evidence of the democrats vision is inclusive of presidential candidate remarks and other messaging such as:
- The use of words like “we, us, all of us, Americans” and much more.
- Language of inclusivity such as “join, agree, accept, belong” in discussion and speeches.
- Fundamental planks that allow for diversity and acceptance.
Message reception bias by those predominating through polarization of messaging would see words as “we” as exclusive and blind to the broad majority of those seeing themselves as moderates, accepting such on face value. The engagement of negative messaging and narrative of negation (as is the purview of several talk radio hosts) at that point would drive away moderates. This may be indicative of a significant change in cultural political attributes or not. More on that in a moment.
Early in a long-term messaging and narrative control campaign it can be important to use polarized language to adapt and change a populations acceptance of the narrative. Hyperbolic language can cause cognitive dissonance and substantial disturbance to intellectual processes. The narrative then can feed into that point and become a “truth” to the individual. Unfortunately much like a worn piece of skin calluses begin to form and though message distinction and fidelity may improve the subjects will become exceedingly resistive to the hyperbole.
I’m not sure that this is the case here nor am I going to stand behind much other than I think it is interesting.
The curves as suggested show a distinct numerical advantage to the perceived democrat messaging campaign. Yet the poll numbers do not show such a significant polling change. The win by the democrats was by an exceedingly narrow margin. What might be suggested by such is that there is still substantial skew in each graph as to the representative response sample. Understand the graphs reflect the messaging campaign not the actual voter turn out. That if true would mean the voter response and turn out may be the fulcrum that near future elections will hinge upon. A press by either side following their current strategy would seem to mean a similar result in the future. It is possible, but doubtful that the next presidential candidate for the democrats could adhere to significant liberal values and flatten or reverse the current messaging target population. It is doubtful.
If I was giving the republicans advice I would suggest inclusivity, credibility, and moderation in messaging. Focusing on key state losses while good tactics will result in a practice of message fidelity that is more polarized. Focus on a holistic strategy to win every state and a messaging program with associated narrative to reach and appeal to the broadest audience would do well to serve the republicans future interests. The current polarized we-them format is subject to radical perturbations when negative messages or media attention has larger than expected effects on voter turn out.
Or, so some of the logic might suggest. In the end Nate Sliver will tell us who is going to win and strategy will be as absent from national political races as it is from national diplomacy.