Daily Dose: Is impeachment a cure for what ails us?

July 19, 2017


First, to be clear - this is not a post to discuss the merits of impeaching Donald Trump. If (more likely when) he is found to have obstructed justice, or some other similar criminal act, the wheels of justice ought to roll over him and any of his inner circle who were (are) accessories. 


That being said, in terms of political discourse and messaging strategy to win elections, it's an important question - especially since many Dem/progressive groups are making impeachment a key part of their campaign strategy. Will an "Impeach Trump" message be effective to win elections?


Allow me to answer that question with another question for those of you who were active (or paid attention) in Wisconsin a few years ago - was "Recall Walker" an effective message to win an election? 


The answer to that question largely depends on the context of the message. The problem that I am seeing at the moment, is that Democrats in Wisconsin (and beyond) have failed to accept and learn from the mistakes made in the Recall election of Scott Walker. In fact, the exact same mistakes are being made in regard to Trump. There is an entire political messaging machine at work 24/7 communicating one message and one action - "not Trump." Just as everything about the recall was "not Walker", everything today is "not Trump."


Here's the problem with that. Just as with the recall, every one of those "not Trump" messages repeats and reinforces the Trump brand, or worldview, or frame. See Naomi Klein's "No is not Enough" discussion - she hits the nail on the head. 


Impeachment on its own will not accomplish the daunting task of righting our democracy. In fact, cognitive science shows us that impeachment will only serve to harden the resolve AND position of those who support Trump.  There is a way to connect impeachment with a progressive shift in political discourse, and it is all about how we connect with others through empathy. And thus change the frame (or brand as Klein suggests) wherein people perceive Trump.


If impeachment is accompanied by a cognitive strategy to communicate why empathy and caring for others is critical to our freedom and democracy, then it could have a tremendous impact. Why? Because caring for our friends and neighbors and looking out for each other are American values and necessary for our prosperity. Once people broadly accept those values as being consistent with their own, even current Trump supporters will begin to question whether his actions and words are consistent with their belief system - which will have subsequently become more empathetic and progressive. 


To begin having an impact, always discuss local events, politics, policies, and act towards your neighbors with the following framing ideas in mind:


1. Democracy required empathy.

2. Freedom comes with a MORAL responsibility for others' freedom.

3. If your friends and neighbors aren't free, neither are you - because the community suffers!

4. The Public - all of US acting together - is necessary for freedom and prosperity (think of Elizabeth Warren's "no one got rich on his or her own")


Most importantly, consider that Trump voters and most Republicans are capable of feeling and understanding empathy and caring for others - it is just lying dormant and needs to be activated. So let's work on finding ways to activate empathy through our words or actions!


Tomorrow - Why are we, as a nation, afraid of immigrants?







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