Pick-Up Artistry Versus Winning Over Voters

One of the baffling things to me since the primary season is how inept a subset of Clinton supporters have been at winning over former Sanders supporters and undecideds. Somehow, hectoring possible voters–voters Democrats needis supposed to convince them to vote for Clinton (boldface mine):

…the logic being advanced by many Democrats, which is that by criticizing Hillary Clinton, one supports Donald Trump, since criticism of Clinton makes people less likely to vote for her. Clinton-supporting pundit Bob Cesca has gone so far as to say that “any attack on Hillary must be taken as tacit support for Trump.” Others, like Paul Krugman, imply that any journalism that puts Clinton in a negative light deliberately provides aid and comfort to the Trump campaign.

Say we accept this logic. Whether or not someone supports Donald Trump is not dependent on their professed opinion, or on how they will vote. Rather, it is solely a function of how their actions contribute to the probability that Donald Trump will become the President. If a person’s actions increase that probability, they are supporting Trump, regardless of what they say. If their actions decrease that probability, they are supporting Clinton.

If that standard is applied consistently, Bernie-bashing, millennial-hating Democrats are openly supporting Trump. That’s because Clinton is currently struggling to retain millennial support. And in order to win the election she’ll not only need their support in public opinion polls, she’ll need them all to actually go to a polling place and case a ballot for her. In order to do that, she needs to be wooing them. And those who support her need to be doing the same. Instead, they’re reinforcing nasty prejudices about millennials (incorrect ones, too, because old people undermine the Democrats far more than millennials do). Or they’re criticizing the one person in their party that millennials have come to respect…

What has concerned me from the beginning of this election is this: Democrats seem to have a better thought-out plan for how to blame leftists for allowing Trump to get elected than they do for how to actually defeat Trump. They’re all set to cast blame on Bernie if they are defeated in November. It will be very satisfying for them.

But if you actually oppose Trump, which Democrats and leftists alike do, you need to think about how to get rid of him. It’s fun to sit around saying “Your actions make you a Trump supporter!” “No, yours do!” But it’s also pointless… A serious plan to defeat Trump involves not insulting the people whose votes Clinton depends on.

Part of this stems from behaving like the political equivalent of a pick-up artist, instead of treating voters with respect (boldface mine):

To this, I’ll just add that the there’s probably a good reason why discourse gamers overestimate their competence: hubris.

It is not, after all, as if Kevin Drum thinks that anyone who hears criticism of Clinton is going to vote Trump. That’s obviously untrue, since Drum himself heard what Sanders had to say, and simply found it unpersuasive. What Drum actually thinks is that while he can handle frank and open criticism, other people can’t. This is always a foundational assumption of discourse gaming: everyone else has to be shepherded and manipulated into conclusions that we were able to reach through basic judgment and reasoning.

When you have this kind of condescending view of everyone else’s intelligence, you’re obviously going to then proceed to make all kinds of stupid mistakes when you’re trying to manipulate their reactions. Here, the same hubris that inclines Drum to think of Millennials as dupes also keeps him from realizing that they might object to this. It reminds me of nothing so much as a pickup artist who thinks of a woman as a “target” who can be “gamed” – and who also thinks that she won’t notice. Both approaches routinely fail, and for many of the same reasons.

Having canvassed in four Democratic presidential elections, back in the dark ages no less when your list of addresses wasn’t microtargeted, you learn very quickly that being a condescending asshole doesn’t work. Winning elections occurs at the margins (and given Clinton’s predictable and predicted weakness as a candidate, those margins are much thinner than they should be), so every vote matters. Don’t be an asshole to those who should be casting votes for Democrats.

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One Response to Pick-Up Artistry Versus Winning Over Voters

  1. John Danley says:

    Resentment, resistance, conspiracy baiting, and vengeance seem to be the engines driving this election.

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