A left-leaning social scientist has a message for his fellow progressives: memes are not persuasive. If you want to win elections, sharing back-slapping memes like this doesn't get it done.
That's true! You know what else is true? You can't persuade people you haven't taken any trouble to understand in the first place.
Take that “Obamacare” meme. For many conservatives it felt like an “epic burn” to liberal supporters of the Affordable Care Act.If the joke doesn't even make sense to you, you might take that as a warning that you haven't understood your opponents' position. I frequently see liberal memes that I don't get, and when I do I make it a point to look up what they're about. You aren't required to agree, but you should at least understand why they think it's funny. That's an important part of understanding how the world looks to them.
But if you’re a liberal like me, it doesn’t even make sense. Obamacare isn’t a “thing” you can “have.” It’s an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, a Medicaid expansion, a bunch of regulations, and tons of other stuff. But aside from that, it’s not even clear what point this meme is making. Why wouldn’t Democrats want to be “first in line” to “have” Obamacare?
In this case, the author doesn't understand the conservative position enough to know that the joke wasn't pointed at "Democrats," but at Congress. Congress passed a huge and burdensome law, and while they didn't take time to read it before they passed it, they did take time to include provisions exempting themselves from the burdensome positions. That's the joke: if it's such a great law, why did they go to so much trouble to make sure they would never have to live under it?
That act fed the popular sense of Congress as a bunch of distant elites who didn't care about the country they saw themselves as ruling. They wouldn't pass laws for you and not for themselves if they didn't see themselves as different from you, separate from you. They wouldn't pass laws they didn't bother to read but that would govern your life if they cared about you. That emotional sense of distance and disdain is what is at work in this meme, and it is also what won Trump the White House in November of last year.
But hey, no need to understand that. Let's get on with persuading people to vote for leftists instead.
Some of these people have views that we might think of as racist. It might seem "wrong" to be nice to people like this. But in a democracy racists can vote.Emphasis in the original.
We can’t stop them from voting unless we are willing to sacrifice the entire idea of democracy. So if there are enough racists in America to swing an election, and we don’t want them running the place, our only option is to convince at least some of them to stop being racists.
"Be nice to the racists" isn't going to get him where he wants to go. He's first going to have to understand the actual arguments. Along the way, he might realize that his opponents aren't who he thinks that they are.