I had a friend ask me the other day why it seems like Republicans “win” more often than Democrats despite the fact that they’re obviously the party with out-of-date ideas, heavily fueled by racism/bigotry, and they’re clearly the biggest problem in our government (aka the more control they have, the more inept things seem to be — just like right now).
My first response was to point out low voter turnout and the infuriating reality of progressive voters typically being very apathetic during state/local elections, midterms, and following a successful run by a Democrat in the White House.
As I’ve said for years, when progressives show up to vote in the numbers we’re capable of, we win far more often than we lose.
The truth is, Republicans have a lot of advantages that Democrats simply don’t have. For instance, they’re “conservatives” selling distorted memories of yesteryear, exploiting the human tendency to cling to “how things used to be” out of fear of change.
On the other hand, by definition, being a progressive means progress. It’s embracing change which is usually much more difficult to sell because human beings tend to resist change. Progressive ideas also often require “big picture thinking” which is another difficult sell.
Think of it like a healthy person who opposes universal health care saying something like, “Why do I need health insurance? I never go to the doctor and I’m never sick!”
Okay, fair enough.
But the thing about emergencies is that they’re typically unexpected.
I’m almost certain the “healthy” person who decried the need for health insurance because “they’re never sick” would sing a drastically different tune if they were to experience some catastrophic health emergency similar to those experienced by millions across this country, such as a heart attack or cancer diagnosis, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Of course, by the time they’d see, firsthand, why health insurance is so important — it’s too late.
It’s much easier for Republicans to just fear-monger about higher taxes, the “government takeover of health care,” or to push a random nightmare story they dug up on the Internet where someone died because of some sort of issue they experienced with universal health care.
Which brings me to one of the GOP’s main advantages: Fear is easier to sell than progress.
Fear is an extremely powerful emotion. It can render otherwise extremely intelligent and rational people completely irrational. People all over the world seek professional help to overcome some sort of phobia.
I once knew a woman who was terrified of mayonnaise. If you got it on her, she would freak out. She didn’t like to see it, talk about it, and even once joked if it was between eating a spoonful of mayo or dying, she might possibly die.
Is that rational? Of course not — but that’s how powerful fear can be in crippling someone.
Republicans also exploit what I call the “exception to the rule” strategy. By that I mean, they have become masters at selling an outlier (aka the exception to the rule) as the “rule.”
A great example of Republicans doing this came after the horrific 2015 mass shooting in France that left 130 dead.
Following that tragic massacre I saw Republicans all over the country use that shooting as an example where tight gun restrictions “empowered terrorists to kill unarmed people.” As always, they claimed had French citizens had gun laws like ours, a massacre on that scale would have never happened.
Without a doubt, 130 people dying in one mass shooting is horrifying.
That said, even with those fatalities all occurring in one single shooting, France’s gun violence doesn’t come close to that of the United States.
Here’s the per capita (100,000 people) totals for gun-related homicides in France and the United States:
- United States: 3.6
- France: 0.2
So, while that 2015 massacre was unbelievably terrible, not only was it an outlier, looking at the bigger picture of the two nations’ per capita gun violence, our pro-gun policies clearly result in much more death than France’s much stricter policies on firearm ownership.
When it comes to voter fraud, Republicans will seek out 1-2 instances they can spin into some massive story where some illegal immigrant somewhere tried to vote, or somebody random ended up casting two votes instead of one, to “prove” that millions of people voted illegally.
Is that true? No. But they damn sure sell it as truth.
Meanwhile, reality continues to tell us that voter fraud is almost non-existent.
The truth is, because fear is so easy to sell, and outliers can be extremely scary, that gives Republicans a huge advantage over Democrats.
Since practically nothing on this Earth is 100 percent, all Republicans need to do is find the imperfections in our ideas, exploit them, then sell those as the “rule” instead of what they are — the exceptions to it.
It’s why Democrats seem to spend more time having to defend their ideas and counter the lies Republicans tell instead of simply selling what they want to do. It’s much more difficult to sell the benefits of universal health care when all it takes for Republicans to sow doubt in such a system is to find a handful of negative stories out of hundreds of millions to sell as “the rule” when that’s not actually true.
There’s a reason why nearly every major country on Earth has universal health care and none of them are rushing to repeal it and replace it with a for-profit system like ours — and that’s a reality Republicans damn sure don’t want to have to explain or answer for.
As long as Republicans build much of their party’s ideological principles around fear, it’s always going to be far more difficult to defeat them simply because human nature is on their side. They’ll exploit outliers to their advantage, push fear to drown out reason, and it’s ultimately left to us to work twice as hard to not only counter their lies and propaganda, but to sell our ideas better than they lie about theirs.