CSotD: Winning arguments

Paul Fell seems to echo my thoughts of the other day when I recalled how Jay Leno torpedoed Bob Dole’s presidential campaign not by satirizing his policy proposals but simply by mocking him as too old for the job.

Fell isn’t the only commentator to note the disarray in Democratic ranks, and to suggest that there’s a chance they’ll beat each other up to the point where they’ll repeat the McGovern debacle or, at best, have another Hubert Humphrey loss.

I don’t know how a field of 20 candidates can ascend the debate stage without touching off a pointless, destructive, chaotic gang fight.

Or why a sensible political party would allow such a potential disaster in the first place.

What I do know is that I’ve seen Biden referred to as “grandpa” at least three times in political cartoons, which isn’t as bad as calling somebody a monkey or wondering if they wear shoes but — speaking not just a grandpa but as a great-grandpa — let me point out that FDR had several grandchildren by the time he was president, as did Jefferson and I’m sure some other presidents but I’m not looking them all up.

In fact, Jefferson is a pretty good argument that it is possible to be prolific in several more ways than one.



Granted, while candidates can’t do a lot about their age (This being a presidential run, not a Logan’s run), the limitations of this insane 20-car shotgun start include plenty of opportunities to leave themselves open to mockery.

“Explain your healthcare proposal in 15 seconds” is as ridiculous as that old joke, “Define the universe and give two examples.”

David Fitzsimmons is right that promising free stuff is election-night poison, but the question is “Who’s promising free stuff?”

If you pay attention, you’ll find that the candidates advocating universal health care and a pre-K-16 educational system also have plans for how to pay for it, and that nobody is advocating open borders.

But a proposal that requires people to dig for details is no proposal at all, while the ridiculous debate structure doesn’t favor explaining much of anything.

If individual candidates aren’t to blame for that, the Democratic Party can be faulted for a set-up that was, from the start, guaranteed to expose its candidates to either deliberate or unintentional mockery.

And was likely to result in cartoons that went for laffs rather than deep analysis, such that the headline writer at the Washington Post invited readers to click and see

Not “how they see them” or, lord knows, “how they analyze them,” but how they are “making fun” of them.

On accounta cartoons are funny. Funny like a clown. They amuse you. They’re here to make you laugh.


Pat Bagley points out that Donald Trump is a big, fat, stinking racist, and that his supporters are okay with that.

Which is true to a frightening extent, though pointing it out isn’t going to move the needle. The latest scandal is that Reagan made some really racist remarks and we’ve got tapes, but people love Reagan.

Well, they love his memory, anyway. People born the year Reagan left office are 30 now, and even 40-year-olds can be forgiven for not having a firm grasp of his record.

They know he has an airport named for him. Whether they remember his policies is less likely, but, in any case, pointing out that he talked just like Trump isn’t going to undermine Trump.

Which is nothing against Bagley’s cartoon, which makes the important point that, much as Trump stinks of racism, his followers don’t see — or smell — it.

It doesn’t matter how you feel about that, or about them.

What matters is that their votes count the same as yours, and pissing them off with insults isn’t going to change that.

Except it might motivate them more to show up at the polls.

I was listening to next-day coverage of Trump’s Cincinnati rally on NPR, and, since radio is not a visual medium, the reporter didn’t have to single out dingalings in cuckoobird costumes.

The people he talked to seemed rational and reasonable, and, if they believed Fox News reporting, well, there’s your issue.

In the days of the Fairness Doctrine, when someone went on the air claiming that illegal aliens are on welfare, somebody else had the right to equal time in order to explain that illegal aliens cannot collect benefits.

Those days are over and are not coming back. You can now have entire radio stations, entire talk shows, entire TV networks dedicated to spreading misinformation and paranoid delusions.

And if you think the only people who fall for their propaganda are rubes and morons, you’re simply wrong.


However, there is a limit to what those reasonable, rational people will believe, and Mike Luckovich hints at the sort of argumentation that could swing things.

“Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

Well, most of us are, but we’re also better off than we were 12 years ago, and the gains have been pretty steady the whole time.

But farmers are feeling a serious pinch, and coal miners ought to know that, not only are their jobs not coming back, but the few they had are disappearing.

And it’s not just that the Blackjewel miners lost their jobs. Their final paychecks bounced, leaving them not simply broke but overdrawn.

It seems like a chance to break through the Donald Trump happytalk, if you treat them like friends and not fools.

Meanwhile, farmers have to know that, regardless of the lies Trump tells, it’s American consumers, not Chinese importers, who pay those tariffs, and this is an opportunity to tell them, and those consumers, that basic fact.

What farmers don’t have to be told is that lost agricultural markets don’t automatically bounce back into place when the dust settles.

Again, treat them like friends, not fools.

And frame your arguments such that the dimmest headline writer in the newsroom can tell that you’re “commenting on,” not “making fun of,” the situation.

3 thoughts on “CSotD: Winning arguments

  1. I was an adult during the Reagan presidency, and never cared for him at all. It was not only about policies — I just didn’t like his personality and attitudes either. So I am often baffled by that trope that says he was so tremendously appealing that even those opposing him politically liked him so very much. Not me, pal!

  2. I am right there with Mitch Marks. Never liked Reagan, never understood his canonization. There was once talk of adding him to Mt. Rushmore, and I think by that time Nancy was running the country.

  3. Make that three of us with me (four if my spouse, who doesn’t read this, also counts). Policies and politics aside, he always gave off to me an air of being the smug uncle who’d pat you on the head (even when you were a functioning adult) and say “There, there, little scamp, you know you can’t *really* believe that silly stuff; your wise elders know what’s best for you, so just toddle off now.”

    Said spouse was living in California during his reign and is thus even more jaded with his memory than I am.

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