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Monday, October 15, 2012

Article: Shouting "Liar" in politics is bad for everyone

Though the Wall Street Journal is typically on the political right, this article applies equally to both partisan sides, and even to third parties. Shouting that your opponent is a liar once might be a good tactical move. When everyone is shouting it repeatedly at one another, it starts to affect the body politic.

In any case, it's an interesting article and a good opportunity for introspection on your campaign strategy and communication protocols:

Our colleague Dan Henninger has an important column today on the left's increasing--really, routinized--resort to the charge that its opponents are "liars." We'd like to expand on some of his points.
Henninger observes that "explicitly calling someone a 'liar' is--or used to be--a serious and rare charge, in or out of politics. It's a loaded word. It crosses a line. 'Liar' suggests bad faith and conscious duplicity--a total, cynical falsity." That's true, when the word is used by adults, though it's also a schoolyard taunt: "Liar, liar, pants on fire!" This columnist tends to agree with Henninger that the "resurrection of 'liar' as a political tool is odious," but we're ambivalent. It also strikes us as infantile, and as such hard to take altogether seriously.
In fact, one cause of the panic now seizing Obama's media acolytes is the intuition that shrieking "LIAR!!!!" is an ineffective tactic. Here's Kevin Drum of Mother Jones:
Romney is lying about his tax plan and he knows it. When he's called on it, however, he turns around and smears the folks who pointed out his lie.
Pretty rancid stuff. On a political level, though, the interesting question is whether there's any way for Obama to make hay with this. The dispiriting answer, I think, is that he probably can't.
Drum's argument is that voters aren't bright enough to understand. In order to "make hay," Obama would have "to somehow hammer home the math. Color me skeptical that there's any way to do that for your average undecided voter, who can probably balance his checkbook but not much more." (As an aside, is math really Obama's strong suit?)

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