As a recovering politician, it is interesting to see the political types using tried and true tactics to try and get themselves reelected. I call this chapter, “Name-Calling for Fun and Profit.”
When election season starts, the name-calling pulls it head out of the muck, and invades our daily lives.
Psychologists call this practice verbal abuse. The purpose is to invoke fear in another person to gain control over them, or to incite anger against the name-calling victim. Politicians who lack any real solutions use this strategy to create a straw evil for which they then claim to protect the public.
History is replete with extreme examples of nice people being victimized for political gain.
Torquemada the Inquisitor was threatened by the economic prowess of Jews and Muslims, and thus rooted out apostates and heretics with the Spanish Inquisition.
The Puritans of Massachusetts worked to solidify morality of the community by trying and murdering the witches of Salem.
The Nazi Party and its “Final Solution” is probably the most extreme example of name-calling, persecution and segregation of a group of people.
Unfortunately, we only have to look in our own communities for examples of name-calling.
Name-calling falls into three types: 1) calling the opponents names; 2) create a persona to demonize and then offer to save the populace from the demon and 3) name-calling for profit.
The first category is simple name-calling. Name-calling of the opponent has always existed at some level.
During the Trump era, the name-calling has grown to an art form.
One does not have read much political commentary to run into terms like statist, unipartist, tax and spend liberal, nazi, kakistocrat, empleomaniac, highbinder, left-wing, rino, zealot, hack, nut job, extremist, wacko, blowhard, idiot, bigot, racist, commie, douche nozzle, hack, hypocrite, lunatic, misogynist, shill, thug, or wacko.
Of course, rivaling douche nozzle as my most favorite use of the English language to demean another is asshat, just for its simple descriptiveness and word picture.
Name-calling in and of itself is abusive, and should not be tolerated. All politicians who utilize name-calling should be forced to do the “superior dance” from the old Saturday Night Live sketches after using the slur. (For those who are too young to remember, watch this). Isn’t that special.
The second category of name-calling is name-calling for fun.
When a politician does not have a solution to today’s problems, that politician creates a straw demon, and then poses as the savior of society by promising to alleviate the imagined evil.
One of the most recent examples of this name-calling, is the attack on schools and libraries as havens for sexual predators. You can say a lot of things about the demographics of sexual predators.
On of the things you can’t say is that grandmother types with a master’s degree in library science is at the top of the sexual predator list.
Now there are places one can go, statistically, to find child sexual predators – churches, sports coaches, religious leaders and even fire chiefs make the list.
So without any examples of actual predation, the political types searching for an issue for which they can become the local hero, will find a book, a passage in a book or chapter they deem immoral.
Then, instead of using the book-challenging process every library has, the politician in search of an issue, will scream, “Burn the witch!” Actually, they don’t scream “Burn the witch!” Instead, they scream, “Fire the librarian.”
The test for the use of a strawman by the politician devoid of actual solutions is that after the election is over, are things any different than they were before the election (other than people’s lives being ruined by the name-calling.)
If the evil still exists (like children still being able to access ample quantities of pornography on their friends’ cell phone), the name-calling was simply a ploy to get someone reelected to a job.
The third type of political name-calling is name-calling for profit.
You can tell if the name-calling falls into this category if the political comment ends with, “If you’ll only donate $50 to our cause, we’ll protect you from whatever the evil of the day happens to be.”
Oftentimes, these folks send out cheap cheesy videos, or flaming emails intending to get you so worked up about some cause, preying on the good intentions or paranoia, to get you to part with your hard-earned money.
Most of the time, you are better off donating the money to your local youth club to give kids opportunities to stay off the streets.
While I am not naive enough to know there are not bad actors out there, I suspect there are very few people in Wyoming who are going to crawl into your bedroom in the middle of the night and steal your gun rights, break into your kitchen and perform an abortion on your dog, or ally with Vladimir Putin to buy of the refs in a professional football game.
Save your money. If the email or video gets you worked up, before you write the check, check out the organization begging for your money.
See if they are actually using the money to support a cause, or using you to support a lavish lifestyle with a con game.
When the raft of fund-raising emails, videos and mailers besiege you, telling you to support caucus X or group Y, look to see it those groups have been effective, or if they are just a gaggle of blowhards sitting at the bar concocting names for political gain.
Name-calling is often trendy.
Calling oneself a “Patriot” was trendy for a while. That term meant that if you labeled yourself by that name, you were politically aware, and everyone who disagreed with you was an idiot.
Recently, the current term of art is “the Uniparty” has appeared as the new trendy disparagement. The term started sneaking into the vernacular of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, recently.
In a state where elected Democrats are as scarce as feathers on a fish, the term Uniparty is nearly nonsensical in referring to Republican in-fighting.
Before Uniparty became trendy, the popular term of non-endearment was RINO. That term was followed by RATBOY (Republicans Are The Boss of You) or CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything).
Other attempted derogatory names include elitists, social engineers or reigning politicians. It can be kind of fun to try and track the trendy derogatory terms of the day.
But, name-calling can be dangerous. When folks use epithets such call public servants with long track records of public service “pedophiles” or “child molesters”, the sloppy political speech can be damaging.
Statistically, pedophiles are not female grandmother type librarians who are just trying to follow the requirements of the law. Such epithets have no place in public discourse.
This political name-calling does nothing to advance the debate. It demeans us all. We should not tolerate spewing political platitudes, demonizing disagreers and high and mighty self-labeling.
We deserve better. It’s our fault these name-calling politicans are prevalent in our dialogs. We tolerate them and give them positive reinforcement for their actions. We are lazy, and we look to labels rather than research the true facts. We don’t call out bullies for what they are. We cheer them on like students egging on a schoolyard fight. We need to stop it.
If we don’t put our feet down, and call out this behavior, our future looks grim. Vilification of political opponents will be our norm. We deserve leaders who will unite and guide us, not demonize segments of the population for political gain. We deserve fair and honest debate about ideas and policies, not calumniation of our friends and neighbors.
The next time we hear political name-calling, we need to call out the name caller. Otherwise, we are just a bunch of wussies.
Tom Lubnau served in the Wyoming Legislature from 2005 - 2015 and is a former Speaker of the House.