by Gino Fanelli | published Dec. 29th, 2015
Recipe for manipulating the court of public opinion:
Two parts feeding into the irrational fears of the public
One part plucking the universal human heartstrings
A tablespoon of reminiscing longingly for a rose-tinted view of 1950s American exceptionalism
A dash of localized colloquialisms, feigned southern drawls and tightly tailored accents to fit the location of a speech
At least, this is what the modern political circuit would have you believe. It's important to realize that a politician's job is to understand and employ these kinds of tactics. That is, at its most fundamental, a presidential candidate's duty is not to fix America or explain how they would bring up the standard of living, improve foreign relations or fix the deficit. Rather, it is simply and only to win. That is the goal of a presidential candidate, and thus, it's imperative that you feed into the lowest common denominator.
Republican voters are most susceptible to sensationalism due solely to social standing. According to a Pew Research Center report, among white voters without any higher education, Republicans outnumber Democrats 54 percent to 37 percent. In addition, the higher the education level, the more likely a person is to vote Democrat. According to CNN's 2008 presidential election poll, 44 percent of all voters identified themselves as college graduates. Among them, there was an 8 percent higher likelihood that they voted for Obama over McCain. For those with a postgraduate degree, the number rose to an 18 percent lead.
This is by no means to say that Democrats are more intelligent than Republicans, as there are a massive number of faults in the way Democratic candidates pander to their audience base that will be examined further in this article. But for now, let's look at the average Republican voter. According to a second Pew Research Center report, a whopping 42 percent of Republicans identified as a white evangelical protestant in 2009, compared to 20 percent of Democrats.
In addition, only 10 percent of Republicans identified as having no religion, compared to 35 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents. In regard to race, 88 percent of Republican voters identify as white. For gender, 22 percent of women voters identify as Republican. And lastly, for income levels, concentration of Republicans increases from 15 percent in voters with an annual income of less than $20,000 to 32 percent for those with an annual income of greater than $100,000, with the stat rising incrementally in every income bracket in between.
What does this mean? Essentially that — perhaps not for all Republicans, but for a large portion — the demographic can be pinned to a mostly white, religious, higher-income-yet-lower-education demographic. It's a demographic established on traditional values, and thus, it's essential for Republican candidates to focus on the "change is bad" mantra. In an article by E.J. Dionne Jr. for the Washington Post, he argues that the right wing longs for '50s nostalgia. In other words, they long for an era marked by social homogenity, affluence and religious values. It's a value system that is, quite literally, the definition of nostalgia: it disregards the rampant racial oppression, Cold War paranoia and perpetual cycle of foreign conflicts, and focuses solely on the perceived good.
It's a dirty tactic, but highly effective. Take, for an ideal example, Donald Trump. His policy suggestions border precariously on the border of insanity, or at least are mostly infeasible, yet he still takes 38 percent of the Republican polls as of November 11. The why is simple: his verbose tactic speaks to a middle-American, religious, white, oft-uneducated demographic which is continuing to feel more disenfranchised, and their beliefs challenged more in the modern world. In a report by MSNBC, post-debate Trump supporters racked up the following stats: 43 percent had a high school diploma or less, 91 percent are white and 38 percent are evangelicals.
The slogan "Make America Great Again" doesn't encapsulate a fault in American ideals, but rather a fear in the heart of a demographic which is feeling continually irrelevant in an era where progressiveness has become a powerful social dynamic. But what does this say about Democratic politicians? There is a facade of progression painted on the face of Democratic candidates, and rather than pandering to the anger in the hearts of voters, there is more so a tactic of attempting to focus on humanization.
Hillary Clinton has been criticized the most for this with her sometimes on, sometimes off Southern accent. Though Clinton did live in Arkansas for 18 years, her accent seems to be dictated by the audience she's speaking to. Particularly, as reported by The Guardian, Clinton adopts a drawl in Southern states, most often when speaking to African-American audiences. Why? Because, through decisively different tactics than Trump, Clinton's accents and the use of her motherhood as a prop for humanization are meant to gain voters' sympathies. Republicans, essentially, want a leader they can look up to, while Democrats want a leader they can relate to. In a report from Politico, 83 percent of black voters support Clinton; comparably, 74 percent supported Obama in the same poll.
It's not about what you're going to do, it's about what you're willing to say.
It's extremely important to acknowledge at this point that no policies have been discussed here. And, in the scheme of political dynamics, that may be the most accurate approach to identifying voting practices. It's not about what you're going to do; it's about what you're willing to say. Who you are willing to be. What kind of people you're selling yourself to. There are two kinds of people in the world: one who, when seeing a man driving a Lamborghini in an Armani suit, feels pangs of jealousy and wants to be him; the other, who sees greed and decadence in the same man. No other factors matter, and it's all about presentation. Is Clinton worth $55 million, and therefore nowhere near comparable to her voter base's economic position?
Absolutely, but it is a game, now more than ever, of presentation.