Last December, I did a writeup of Roy Moore’s defeat in Alabama, praising the persuasion involved that led to the upset. It was clear that the political establishment and their activist wing had tested a new tactic with success. It was shown that if women made accusations against you, no matter how remote or vague, you could lose as a Republican in one of the reddest states in the country. The attacks were focused, consistent, and spectacularly successful. There were no other “scandals” to garble the race like there were in the 2016 election. There was one, clear, focused direction, and viscerally potent.
I warned then about the “misconduct” tactic’s potency and that there wasn’t a real way to counteract it. The only way out was to shift the conversation entirely.
Now, I’m pleased to say that things have changed. Sure, the storm is as potent as ever, and Missouri’s governor resigned this week partially because of “sexual misconduct” allegations, but so far, that’s proven an exception. Instead, the storm is mostly brewing on the “social justice” establishment’s own side. That’s the general direction.
People only have a limited capacity of attention, and the things they do pay attention to, they consider to be immensely important. Where has the attention been paid in the “Me Too” movement? Since Roy Moore, most attention has gone to former establishment darlings. Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, and many others in politics, entertainment, and the media have been scalped. Fewer people from the “other side” have been scalped, or at least the media isn’t paying as much attention to them, which is what really matters.
The “sexual misconduct” strategy is very effective, but it requires constant and consistent focus. That focus has overwhelmingly been on the wrong side in order for it to work well as a political tactic for the “social justice” warriors. It is possible that things could turn around as November comes closer, but since the outrage train needs constant feeding, the attention will be shifted anywhere where outrage comes, and so far on this issue, that’s mainly from the “social justice” warrior side.
The strategy also requires one target at a time, but a mid-term election is based on hundreds of different races throughout the country. People just don’t have the capacity to pay attention to that many things. Even though local media might be able to accuse candidates of “misconduct,” the allegations need to spread far and wide above other media chatter to make a huge difference. That is obviously possible, but remember, that’s still only one race. If the brushfires of “misconduct” spread far and wide, they’ll just get garbled and people will refer to their default reasons for voting. It’s the same phenomenon as how the “pussygate” tape got lost in the noise after a couple of weeks. It caused an outrage for a while, other information came out, and people defaulted to their predetermined reasons for voting, rationalizing them after the fact.
In short, there’s too much noise and the “social justice” crowd is too busy eating its own in order to use this strategy in a focused way, especially given how diffuse the races are, in contrast to the high-profile special election in Alabama this year. The attention of the entire country was focused on that one race. Now, that attention will be focused on the aggregate of many races, not on any particular one unless something extraordinary happens, and even then, it won’t affect the other races much.
For all the fluff, the “misconduct” strategy is basically like a smart bomb, not a nuke. It needs to be used with finesse and focus. That hasn’t happened so far for effective use as a political weapon. Greater time has elapsed between the start of this “movement” and now, compared to now and the election in November, so it’s unlikely that the focus of the “movement” will suddenly shift.
Meanwhile, the “social justice” side is acting as awful as ever. President Trump is already gearing up by calling Nancy Pelosi a lover of MS-13. There’s plenty to talk about, plenty of room to focus voters’ attention on favorable issues, so long as the Republican Party doesn’t shit the bed. Admittedly, that’s always a dicey proposition, but the incompetence and terribleness of the other side should push them below water, especially if some kind of breakthrough with North Korea happens.
The “Me Too” hysteria bubble is very harmful to the business and social environment, but for the midterms, it’s much ado about nothing.
To find out more about conversational dominance and command of attention, read Stumped, especially the second chapter.