Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Fairness Gene and Political Strategy

“Not fair!” rings the cry of the sibling assigned to wash the dishes that day. In a family of legal disputants, claims and evidence are mounted. In a liberal and controversy-avoiding household, tasks can then be rearranged. “Not fair!” is a ringing call to arms that everyone can understand, at least in a liberal household. They say that in conservative households “respect and obey” rings louder. Maybe. I never lived in that kind of household, and we never voted Republican. Although my father said he voted for Eisenhower the second time around. Maybe he was making good money by then.

Anyway, it turns out that you don't have to have words to believe in the cogency of “not fair!” Primates do it, wolves do it, even fish do it. If you are a social and cooperative animal, you evolve to have a sense of fairness.

What kind of country is Iran? It is a kleptocracy, he says. Sounds right to me. How to approach it, how to help the oppressed people? Give them the facts on the kleptocracy, who is taking what. I read elsewhere that what set off the demonstrations was Rohani's publishing the budget, so that it became clear who was getting what. Nothing like the facts of a kleptocracy to kindle “not fair!” at least in a society that has not bred out the fairness gene. Seems to me that in some societies “respect and obey” might take precedence in a significant sector – see, Russia. But what Stephens says makes sense to me – just the facts, ma'am. Let the fairness gene take over.

Which is pretty much my advice for Democratic candidates, too. You can make fun of Trump, that's always a kick, and the Trump Crime Family, where competition for dullest of the dull is fierce. Snark. Can't resist. But I should, and so should the Dems. Mocking can come back to bite you. Better to use the fairness gene.

The Republicans are not being fair. They are taking all the money for themselves. Just prove it, and let the voters make their decisions. Pictures – posters – over and over again of the fat cats and what they are taking away by virtue of the Tax Kleptocracy Bill.

Follow the theme with a little variety. They are taking the environment away from the people and using it for themselves, to make money. Poster child, Ryan Zinke. Really, let's have posters. His slogan, “It's (a) mine!” Picture of shrunken national monument and superimposed mining equipment, Zinke in private jet buzzing the monument.

Picture of elfin Jeff Sessions pulling a reefer out of someone's mouth, “I'll take that!” Yes, he will, he certainly will.

Picture of ICE throwing a mother out of the country with caption, “This land is my land!” with crying Woody Guthrie on the side. “Mine!” The cry of two year olds!

So, that's my election strategy advice. Attribute to Republicans the slogan: “THIS LAND IS MY LAND AND YOU CAN SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

Works for me.

Budd Shenkin

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