At the risk of stating the obvious, Republicans lost Tuesday night. It sucked! And the thing that sucks even more is the finger pointing started almost immediately.
I’m not going to single anyone else out for their post-election finger pointing, I did that once already, and folks were still arguing about that on social media as recently as last night.
You’ve all heard the remarks, so-and-so county chair didn’t do enough to support such-and-such candidate, party leaders backed moderates, or worse, RINOs, we ran on the wrong issues and my personal favorite, our candidates hid from President Donald Trump.
I’m not writing to argue over whether any of those arguments have merit or not because all those arguments have merit in the minds of those making the arguments.
The real problem is Republicans don’t know how to fight. Sure, we win arguments all the time using facts and figures. Unfortunately, the object of elections is not to win arguments. We have to win votes and votes are won on emotion.
Don’t freak out – facts still matter, but those facts have to be used to get an emotional response.
Psychologists back up my argument. According to the American Psychological Association,” In 2006, Emory University psychology professor Drew Westen, PhD, and colleagues published a study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Vol. 18, No. 11, pages 1,947-1,958) describing the neural correlates of political judgment and decision-making.” Back in 2008 the APA interviewed Weston. Here’s some of what he had to say:
We ultimately found that reason and knowledge contribute very little. From three studies during the Clinton impeachment era to the disputed vote count of 2000 to people's reactions to Abu Ghraib, we found we could predict somewhere between 80 percent and 85 percent of the time which way people would go on questions of presumed fact from emotions alone. Even when we gave them empirical data that pushed them one way or the other, that had no impact, or it only hardened their emotionally biased views. Then we followed that up with the brain study that begins the book.
Again, I am not saying we should abandon facts. Instead, we must, find a way to use emotion to support those facts. The Democrats are good at it, the Republicans, not so much. Look at what the Democrats do with President Trump’s words. Look at how they twisted the term illegal immigrant to undocumented citizen. Republicans just lay down and let them do it.
Turning to a local example, the first post published on The Bob & Steve Show blog about the Salem County Sheriff race was about the challenger candidate using his personal time to seek elected office. I didn’t think it was a very controversial post, simply opinion. The challenging candidate’s supporters decided to make an issue of it, arguing with us on social media. Finally, I went with emotion and told the story of my career cop stepfather who never once used personal time while visiting hospitals and specialists as doctors were trying to find out what the rare terminal illness was that ended his career and eventually his life. It stopped the arguing. My point, I used emotion, supported by fact, to put an end to a ridiculous argument.
Bob and I were pretty mad about the attacks over that opinion post which led us to further investigation, discovered the candidate was once accused of beating an inmate, wrote about it, got attacked and, once again, we went with emotion. We mentioned legal documents that backed up the argument, facts. Those facts led to more arguing. So, we tracked down the guy who was allegedly beaten, interviewed him and had him on the radio show, emotion. More attacks and arguing took place, so we released the legal documents, the words of the Administrative Law Judge were very emotional. Republicans in Salem County were smart enough to use all that emotion to win votes and the election.
In Voorhees Township it was discovered the Deputy Mayor had been involved in two different bar brawls. Fact, the fights happened. The Deputy Mayor responded with a letter to voters in which he alleged the reason for the fights was anti-Semitism and racism, emotion. Emotion won the day.
The Salem County and Voorhees Township races are just two examples of how emotion was used to win votes.
So, yes, facts are important, but emotion is what wins votes. Republicans better learn how to use facts in an emotional way because if, as Republicans, we don’t learn how to fight next year’s legislative races are going to suck too.