“I don’t want someone with a great idea which will actually work. I want something I can fit on a bumpersticker,” said by no one, but put in practice by every voter who responds to an intellectual argument with a slogan. Without actually knowing what the slogan means. Hope and Change! Feel the Bern! Make America Great again!
Okay, okay hang on a second. If you’re supporting Trump for his ideas and arguing on his ideas, fine. We might disagree, but don’t get all pouty on me yet. If, however, you troll Facebook and just write MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, TRUMP 2016!!! every opportunity you get… well, let’s face it, you’ve stopped reading and found the nearest comment section in which to vomit your slogan. Because “You know what earns my vote? A sweet slogan I can wear on a t-shirt!” was never overheard being uttered from a thinking man (or woman, or gender-neutral-non-binary ameba).
I get the slogan. By that, I mean the concept of the slogan. Seriously, I do. It sticks in the mind, it cuts through the ADD mindset of today’s media landscape, it tries to sum up what the product is about. Yes, if you’re using a slogan, you’re selling a product. From a sport shoe to your new president. Slogans are for selling, they’re used for a reason. Get over it already. But a slogan’s purpose should merely be to catch your attention. It isn’t meant to replace the product. When you buy shoes, the sales person gives you the actual shoes. They do not, for example, hand you a bumpersticker which says “Just do it.” In this case, the product, is actually a set of ideas.
Similarly, if your favorite candidate is selling you a slogan without an idea behind it, you’re that idiot who’s walking barefoot in the snow, but you have a snazzy T-shirt with a cool “Hope and Change” retro design.
Mindless herds need slogans. “Feel the Bern!” is much easier to say than “Federalism and the appropriate delegation of powers to the state are necessary for a free marketplace of ideas and policies.” Try fitting that on a yard sign.
A thoughtful proposal on immigration policy is never going to pick up as much steam as saying “DAMN MEXICANS, they ruin everything!”
“Champion of the Middle Class” sounds heroic. Like your candidate is Superman, complete with brooding anxiety for having to constantly save the world from destructive morons. But behind that “slogan” is an individual who’s responsible for killing a bunch of people on multiple occasions, then covering up dozens of rapes on her husband’s behalf. Or sending classified information back and forth on a private server. She’s a lot less Superman and a lot more Doomsday. For you comic book nerds.
“Hope and change,” sounds terrific. At first. Who is against hope? Who’s afraid of a little change? Well, turns out, freaking everyone when Obama’s saying it. Save maybe gun suppliers. Those dudes are just cleaning up right now.
Slogans work because they appeal to a basic human trait: feel it first, think about it only if you have to, but even then let’s just not and pretend we did. CANDIDATE 2016!!!
Group-think. That’s the root problem here.
Conservatism, on the other hand relies not on group-think but on tested ideas. Students of Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, the Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson, based their political opinions on ideas. The problem is you can’t package them in four words or less: “Personal Responsibility for ALL!” isn’t going to sell like “Healthcare and education is a human right!” The former slogan requires everyone take care of themselves, the latter requires someone else work for you because you’re a lazy sod.
But if someone takes a little time to explain Conservatism in a patient, easy-to understand manner, the chanting masses with their slogans and talking points tend to pipe down and listen. Even if you say it while wearing your inside shoes and a cardigan.
It’s much harder to chant nonsense at someone who’s replacing your rhyme with reason. Done well, Conservatism can appeal to someone’s emotions, just a different kind. Self-reliance and rugged individualism always requires an individual be judged on merit. Sometimes you’ll have to fail before you can succeed. Conservatism doesn’t sound sexy. It sounds hard. Because it is hard to be the arbiter of your own life and success.
But unlike the empty slogans, when Conservatism is enacted, when people live their life without government interference, what results is not a chant of the feels. What results is glory. Independence. Self-confidence. None of which is possible when you’re coddled by the state.
Liberalism is incapable of selling confidence. It’s incapable of selling independence. You’ll never see a Democrat advocating you try to do something on your own. Instead, he or she will tell you how the system is rigged against you. How you didn’t build that. How the one percent owes you what they have. All of which might make you feel angry and called to action. But it is incapable of filling you with any real pride. Only a false one.
It’s much easier to tap into human nature with the promises (albeit false) of safety, security, and free crap. That’s why we have empty slogans. It’s much harder to appeal to intellect, which in-turn taps into a deeper, more satisfying human desire for accomplishment. It’s much harder to motivate people to both believe and bring the best of of themselves than it is to simply promise them a handout.
But none of that changes what’s right.