The Warning

In his New York Times column Frank Bruni warns the Democrats:

Dear Robert De Niro, Samantha Bee and other Trump haters:

I get that you’re angry. I’m angry, too. But anger isn’t a strategy. Sometimes it’s a trap. When you find yourself spewing four-letter words, you’ve fallen into it. You’ve chosen cheap theatrics over the long game, catharsis over cunning. You think you’re raising your fist when you’re really raising a white flag.

You’re right that Donald Trump is a dangerous and deeply offensive man, and that restraining and containing him are urgent business. You’re wrong about how to go about doing that, or at least you’re letting your emotions get the better of you.

When you answer name-calling with name-calling and tantrums with tantrums, you’re not resisting him. You’re mirroring him. You’re not diminishing him. You’re demeaning yourselves. Many voters don’t hear your arguments or the facts, which are on your side. They just wince at the din.

One rightwinger has said it more concisely: all that Democrats need to do to beat Trump is not act crazy and they can’t even do that. Demorats will never beat the Republicans or Donald Trump by acting a lot crazier than they do. Americans like to feel safe. Trump is a disruptor. “Safe” isn’t his shtick. You won’t make Americans feel safer by frothing at the mouth and spewing obscenities.

For goodness sake, Democrats, keep your crazy old people in the attic. Start with Maxine Waters. She will do you no good.

9 comments… add one
  • steve

    This has been one o the great successes of the right wing media. If some celebrity says something, if some college professor we have never heard of says something, if some college kid says something bad about Trump, it gets big media coverage and that becomes the official position of everyone on the left. DeNiro, Bee etc certainly don’t speak for me or anyone I know. So, we have Trump saying awful stuff, and he actually does represent the GOP vs celebrity of the day. Kudos to the conservatives I guess.

    Steve

  • Modulo Myself

    Democrats have been nominating moderate after moderate while Republicans nominate neo-Confederates who make jokes about sending their opponent’s children to Gitmo, but somebody said the f-word on the television and that’s the issue.

    People swear casually 24/7 in elite culture, btw. It’s not rage, it’s just habit. DeNiro’s washed up and Samantha Bee isn’t funny, but they aren’t throwing tantrums or frothing at the mouth.

    It seems to me that you’re saying opposition to Trump should emulate the conditions of living under an authoritarian regime, where nobody uses crude language ever about the dictator.

  • Andy

    “People swear casually 24/7 in elite culture, btw. It’s not rage, it’s just habit. ”

    I agree it’s probably a part of elite culture. The problem is that elite culture is a very small number of people, relative to the whole population.

    “It seems to me that you’re saying opposition to Trump should emulate the conditions of living under an authoritarian regime, where nobody uses crude language ever about the dictator.”

    Well, no one actually said that crude language should never, ever be used when it comes to Trump, so you’ve put up a strawman.

    One of the things I was taught as an intel analyst and briefer was to always know your audience and that often you have more than one audience. That is a concept that should be very familiar to celebrities.

    If one desires to change minds or at least get others to consider your position, then one needs to adopt a strategy in terms of arguments, manners, and language that will appeal to the target audience(s). It’s really just basic persuasion methodology.

    I think these celebrities are talking to other elites in the way they understand – like you said, as a habit. But, when done publically, there are many more people listening. Their comments are a great way to “high five” the like-minded and virtue-signal to peers, but if one is actually interested in moving the needle in a positive direction, then it would be a good idea if they kept that fact in mind.

  • Modulo Myself

    Again, there are moderate Democrats out there making non-profane arguments. The news is filled with stories about what’s happening in this country. The idea that the people who voted for a man who boasted about grabbing women by their pussies can’t handle hearing a random celebrity say ‘fuck Trump’ works only if you envision an authoritarian cult of personality surrounding the president. And that’s what’s going on. ‘Fuck Trump’ is no different than a player taking a knee or stories about children being torn from the arms of their parents.

  • Andy

    “The idea that the people who voted for a man who boasted about grabbing women by their pussies can’t handle hearing a random celebrity say ‘fuck Trump’ works only if you envision an authoritarian cult of personality surrounding the president. ”

    The point isn’t that people can’t handle it. The point is that it’s counterproductive to actually opposing Trump.

  • steve

    “If one desires to change minds or at least get others to consider your position, then one needs to adopt a strategy in terms of arguments, manners, and language that will appeal to the target audience(s). It’s really just basic persuasion methodology.”

    Certainly true if they were official emissaries for the left. From my POV they are not. It is just some actor spouting off. I don’t see this as any different than when they ask some actor their opinion about serious medical issues, like Jenny McCarthy and vaccines. They should be ignored. (Also goes for sports figures.) However, they have been successfully portrayed as representing what the left really thinks, and are saying what they really believe. Frankly, I think there is almost a zero chance of undoing that. There is really no way to control these actors, so I think the Democrats will just have to work around it.

    Steve

  • Modulo Myself

    We shall see if it’s counterproductive. But random people swearing at politicians is pretty common. If it’s counterproductive the problem lies with conservatives and the fact that celebrities and the liberal elite live in the heads of conservatives, which is the case. It’s true. Conservatives pretend to disdain liberals and Hollywood but they really envy them.

    The only Republican celebrities I can think of are people like Ted Nugent (lol) and he ended up making threats about Obama. I had to look this up, because I didn’t carry it around for me in bitter memory for years. But Ted Nugent, alas, does not live in the heads of liberals, because you would have to be an idiot to envy him.

    The other important truth is that Trump’s policies regarding immigrants and asylum seekers are obscene. People who can’t admit that are going to face contempt from civilized humans.

  • Guarneri

    The entire thread deflected from the real issue: Dem politicians, especially the leadership, have been just as vitriolic as the celebs, and just as void of cogent arguments. Gun control, bad mouthing the economy, out of control immigration and managed trade aren’t going to win the Democrats anything.

  • What I think some of the comments miss is that at least 40% of the electorate do not vote for affiliational reasons. You can’t expect them to vote for the Democratic candidate because they’re Democrats. You are judged not just by what the team captain says and does but by what the team’s other members and its fans say and do. They all go in to make up the team’s brand.

    That those judgments may be unfair or may fall more heavily on Democrats than on Republicans is irrelevant. Politics isn’t fair or balanced.

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