Thursday, July 7, 2011

Your Spin is Futile

You'll all enjoy a nice piece by Abe Sauer showing how the GOP message machine works. In this case, Heritage drafted five questions to tweet to yesterday's Barack Obama twitter town hall, and guess what? Republican politicians and operatives went ahead and used them.

It's certainly worth knowing for those who don't that party talking points exist and are followed (and, yes, I think that's more the case, but hardly only the case, on the Republican side). I think this also, however, shows that quite a bit of it is pretty clearly a waste of time. Heritage suggested, for example, asking Obama: "Your budget was rejected by Senate 97-0 & Dems haven’t produced budget in 700+ days. Where is your economic plan?" That's hardly a difficult gotcha question; if asked, any politician would ignore the preface, and be happy to be prompted to give his own talking points on his economic plan. Granted, the question serves as advertisement for a GOP talking point (that the Democrats didn't pass a budget last year), but it's hard to see who the audience is for that one, or that it would affect anyone's vote it they knew about it.

A couple of points...first of all, it's easy to sit home watching TV and believe that if only the correct questions were asked, the president (or any other politician) would have to admit something, or would look bad, or something would happen. That's simply not true. Politicians, especially at the presidential level, are perfectly capable of evading even the most clever questions, and usually can do it so smoothly that hardly anyone will notice.

Second, most of the visible spinning and positioning that you notice when you pay attention to politics is simply not very important. I'm not saying they shouldn't do it; there's always the chance that it'll make a small difference on the margins, and there's a very real effect in teaching people inclined to agree with you what they're supposed to think about something. But it's very, very, easy to overrate the importance of any of it.

1 comment:

  1. You're right, these sorts of activities don't change many people opinions. It's better to think of it as a team-building exercise; a chance for everyone involved to feel like they have invested effort so they follow through with donations and votes. Do you think Democrats do this less because of the wider demographics involved, or because they don't have a successful left wing Rush Limbaugh/FOX News that has trained them to think this way?


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