Stop with this “don’t talk about your opponents!” nonsense

13 Mar 2018 12:27 am
Posted by: Donna

The thing is, I keep starting blog posts, which have tended to take a day or more to complete in most cases (not writing, but finding time to edit and format) but the news cycle changes etch-a-sketch quickly so I often abandon them but, screw it, I’m finishing this one.

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OMG you should have seen the outrage over this slogan!

Oprah Winfrey appeared on Van Jones’ CNN show (warning: link autoplays) to declare she’s decided not to run for President (for now, at least) but had some advice for aspiring Presidential candidates in 2020:

“I will say to whoever is going to run for office, do not give your energy to the other side,” she said in an interview with CNN’s Van Jones on “The Van Jones Show,” airing Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.

“Do not spend all your time talking about your opponents. Do not give your energy to that which you really don’t believe in. Do not spend an ounce of your time on that,” she told the CNN host.

Oprah is doing that thing where she repeats conventional wisdom that sounds wise and insightful but is really very, very bad political advice. It presents an election race as a literal foot race where the entrant who simply runs faster and crosses the finish line sooner wins. Train hard every day! Eat right! Don’t be distracted by what your opponent is doing!

I can see why Oprah might say this: her own career trajectory is that of a talented woman’s tireless pursuit of opportunity and advancement. She didn’t start out on the talk show circuit ripping on Donohue and Sally Jessy Raphael*! She created her own show, and built a vast entertainment empire signified by, first her name, and then merely the letter “O”.

It’s tempting, especially in retrospect, for Oprah and we non-Oprah mere mortals to view elections as strictly linear events involving only (or mostly) the strengths or level of participation of the entrants, but they rarely are. Most elections contain elements of many kinds of competitive human endeavors, including sports, entertainment, and advertising. If anything high profile elections resemble the multi-year marketing campaigns of corporate giants – Mac vs PC, Coke vs Pepsi.

Thought exercise! Imagine if PepsiCo, Inc., began including an ingredient that caused painful illnesses in many of the people who drank their products. It went on for years. It was such a problem everyone knew the Pepsi products were causing the sickness, which was known to kill people many times. While Pepsi was also engaged in deceptive advertising practices deliberately hiding their malfeasance.

What would you expect Coca Cola, Corp., to do in this scenario? Focus solely on how delicious and refreshing Coke products are, while promising not only permanently quenched thirst, but also endless clear skin, manageable hair, and perfectly un-troubled self-esteem? Would you not think it a tad strange if Coke never or rarely mentioned the deadly poison Pepsi was including in many of its products, plus their corrupt business practices, in Coke’s advertising and promotional communications?

Wouldn’t you think Coca Cola and Co. were the kind of the biggest dopes ever for not highlighting how bad Pepsi was? Even if you weren’t happy with Coke’s products and business model, don’t you think the fact Pepsi was deliberately poisoning people would be a good reason for Coke to suspend their usual “hey, we add life!” programming to turn an eye to more of a “hey, Pepsi really sucks, don’t buy it, seriously!” message?

You would, and you know it. Going anti-Pepsi as opposed to pro-Coke would be considered the obvious smart strategy for Coke.

And even if you were firmly committed to belief Pepsi loyalists are really nice, yet misunderstood, people, I’m pretty sure you’d treat their constant entreaties to everyone, including you, to buy poison-laced Pepsi over non-poisoned Coke as dangerous nonsense!

Yes, you know you would. Because, obviously, consumer products are important!

As opposed to elections.

Here are some (but not all) things you foreclose Democrats talking about when you insist they mustn’t give energy to the other (GOP) side:

Theft of a Supreme Court seat.
Attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
Attacks on immigrants.
Attacks on DACA recipients.
Bashing poor people.
The environment, ever.
The GOP war on voting rights.
The GOP war on education.
The GOP war on women’s rights.

What, if anything, are Democrats actually allowed to talk about, under this “positivity only!” mandate? Do you want Democrats to save you or not?

*When Oprah Winfrey was sued by Texas cattle ranchers over her statements on her show about beef production, she fought them directly, and won.

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