On his HBO show Real Time host Bill Maher used the topic of gay marriage to argue that, Democrats don’t stick to their beliefs. Maher said, “Unlike the Democrats, when Republicans believe in things that the public doesn’t their response is f**k it. We’ll make them believe.”
Here is the video:
After urging Obama to support gay marriage, Maher said, “So tonight, I’d like to congratulate the leadership of the Democratic Party who really stood up for what was right. I’d like to, but I can’t, because other than Gavin Newsome, Dennis Kucinich, and that governor from New Jersey who went all Brokeback Mountain with his bodyguard, no Democrat would touch this issue with a ten inch pole. It wasn’t the Democrats who changed America on this issue. It was television. Which in the last 5 years has gotten gayer than the British Navy, and if there is one thing I know about Americans, it is if they see something on TV that makes it okay…”
Maher then used Victoria Jackson’s complaint that Glee was shoving the gay thing down our throats to make a broader point about the difference between the two parties, “That is true. They are shoving the gay thing down America’s throat, and it turns out America got used to it surprisingly quickly, and that really shouldn’t shock anybody because shoving things down America’s throat is what Republicans do all the time.”
The Real Time Host explained his idea of how Republicans work, “Unlike the Democrats when Republicans believe in things that the public doesn’t, their response is f**k it. We’ll make them believe. Like attacking Iraq to avenge 9/11, like convincing a country that badly wanted healthcare reform that they really didn’t want it, like turning global warming into a hoax. That’s what conservatives do. Relentlessly push, until the unthinkable becomes the consensus.”
Maher concluded, “The idea of blaming teachers for our financial crisis which would have seemed completely lunatic a year ago becomes the conventional wisdom. Republicans don’t run from unpopular stances and they stand by their convictions. Stupid, ignorant, world destroying convictions based on disproven economic fantasies and ancient books full of primitive reality and magic people, but convictions none the less.”
Bill Maher used four issues as examples of how Democrats couldn’t stand by their convictions, gay marriage, the invasion of Iraq, healthcare reform, and climate change. Ask yourself what do all of these issues have in common? How were Republicans able to convince a sizable number of Americans to go against their own self interests?
Republicans did it by using emotion to undercut logic and facts.
Conservatives got support for the illogical invasion of Iraq by warning of another 9/11. They gutted healthcare reform with talk of death panels and rationed care. They have attacked climate change with the simple question does the weather feel any different to you? Republicans target the heart. Democrats target the mind, and more times than not the Republicans are winning.
What I am suggesting is that Democrats have maintained their convictions, but they are appealing to the brain when they need to appeal to the heart. (George Lakoff and Drew Westen have both written excellent books dedicated to this very subject). Democrats have maintained their beliefs, but when their appeals to reason fail, they have no backup plan.
Democrats want to believe in the rational voter. They have clung on to the idea people will always evaluate the facts and act in their own self-interest. They don’t. In fact, they hardly ever do. Our politics are ruled by emotion, not reason.
The issue of workers’ rights has been a successful one for Democrats because they were able to make the argument against Scott Walker’s actions in Wisconsin on emotional terms. For once the Republicans were the ones citing emotionless numbers and budgets, while the Democrats were advocating for fairness, justice, liberty, and rights. The roles were reversed and Democrats have politically trounced Republicans on this issue.
Believe it or not, Democrats used to make successful emotional appeals all the time, but that was before the term liberal was turned into a curse word and replaced by wishy-washy progressives.
Democrats need to forget about the concept of the rational American. They must ignore the head, and go straight for the heart. Facts may win minds, but feelings win hearts, votes, and support on the issues. Democrats aren’t weak kneed in their convictions. Their problem is that they don’t know how to translate their convictions into emotionally resonant arguments.
By launching themselves so far into right wing ideological orbit, Republicans have given Democrats a golden opportunity to emotionally reconnect to America. Republican arguments on almost every current issue are missing the mark emotionally with the American people. (This difference between hearts and minds also helps explain why America is split on Obama’s policies, but they personally like him a lot. Obama’s policy arguments tend to appeal to the mind, but when he flashes his personality, he wins hearts).
Maher had it right. The average American’s thoughts about politics revolve around emotions. They don’t reason things through, and sometimes understanding the political shifts of the American people really is as easy as acknowledging that they believe what they see on TV. Gays featured on scripted and so called “reality TV” appealed to their hearts and in a few years their minds changed on the issue of same sex marriage.
The door is wide open for Democrats, but they need to learn to woo America’s heart, because she isn’t all that interested in the mind.