Lincoln * Institute

Lowman S. Henry

Lowman S. Henry

Chairman & CEO
Lincoln Institute
of Public Opinion Research

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Town Hall Commentary

Brat Fit

by Lowman S. Henry
 

In one of the most prolonged brat fits in history by an out-of-the-mainstream ideological movement the American Left continues to act like a small child whose favorite toy has been snatched away from it over its loss of power at the national and state levels.

And like children, when there is no reasonable argument to employ they result to name calling. And so if anyone who espouses ideas or policy positions with which they disagree, the go to tactic is to brand that person with a pejorative. Thus we are subjected to a daily barrage of words from Left wing activists and their apologists in the mainstream news media like “hateful,” “racist,” or “intolerant.”

Here in Penn’s Woods the elected official who is especially adept at driving the Left nuts is State Representative Daryl Metcalfe. The fact that Metcalfe not only doesn’t retreat in the face of Left wing attacks but actually seems to enjoy them really causes liberal heads to explode.

The most recent example is Metcalfe’s calling out of Governor Tom Wolf for circumventing the legislative process and changing centuries of precedent listing mothers as mothers and fathers as fathers on birth certificates. By executive fiat he declared all to be simply parents.

For his efforts Metcalfe was denounced as “hateful” by Left wing activists and newspaper editorialists who castigated his alleged intolerance, this while themselves exhibiting extreme intolerance. Claiming mothers and fathers should be called “parents” supposedly is more fair to same sex couples, although gay men can be fathers and gay women can be mothers either through natural conception or by adoption. Calling a gay man a father or a gay woman a mother is not homophobic, it simply reflects the central role that person is playing in raising a child.

The king of poking at the Left’s sensibilities is of course the man who took away their favorite toy �" President Donald Trump. He of the itchy Twitter finger also seems to relish poking the liberal bear and his enjoyment at watching their reaction only intensifies the brat fit.

All of this serves to remind us that words matter. Conservatives have not been able to master the art of wordcraft since Ronald Reagan left office. The Left is proficient and Donald Trump’s skill at turning a phrase has proven to be more than their equal.

The fact is that policy debates, and even political contests, can be won or lost depending on how they are branded. The “Affordable Health Care Act” is a wonderful example. How can anybody be against affordable health care? The problem is, the “Affordable Health Care Act” has unleashed historic spikes in health insurance premiums. Likewise, call illegal aliens “dreamers” and the public is sympathetic.

Sometimes popular nicknames for complicated policy matters actually clarify the situation. In the Reagan era explaining the complexities of nuclear defense strategy in a Cold War environment was a difficult task. But when the Gipper wanted to develop space-based first strike defense capabilities the proposal was dubbed “Star Wars” and instantly the entire nation knew what he meant.

The fact is most people are busy with their daily lives and don’t have either the time or inclination to spend hours reading policy papers and parsing the nuances of health care reform, immigration or the federal budget. That is why how the debate is branded matters. What legislation is called immediately frames the discussion.

The recent “shutdown” of the federal government lasted less than three days because the alliterative title “Schumer Shutdown” succeeded in placing the blame on obstructionist Democrats and represented a rare rhetorical victory for Republicans. And while Donald Trump’s bestowing of nicknames are often, shall we say a bit unpresidential, they do produce the desired result.

The bottom line for conservatives is we need to get more adept at framing the debate. And, when dealing with the Left let me offer another childhood analogy: since their actual debating skills rarely rise above the level of a kindergarten playground recall the old rhyme: “sticks and stones may break my bones . . . ?”

Don’t apologize for taking a principled stand. Don’t give into the name calling. Don’t back down. When invectives are hurled your way reject the name, challenge the name caller, defend your position. Like the playground bully, their façade of strength will crumble when you fight back.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.