“Politics for the simple-minded” is how Frank Luntz describes the approach he has, more than anyone else, helped embed in U.S. politics.
Luntz has made a lot of money poisoning public discourse this way on behalf of Republicans and big business, so he knows whereof he speaks.
Thanks to Luntz, Repubs almost invariably say “death tax” instead of “estate tax.” Also thanks to him, Exxon and BP aren’t drilling for oil; they’re “exploring for energy.”
Another example of the Luntz approach is how, in last year’s mid-terms, Republicans tried to scare voters about health-care reform by calling it “government takeover of health care.” Judging by the election results, it seems the tactic worked.
While I’ve cited only GOP examples so far, this insidious combination of dumbing-down issues and manipulating people with carefully chosen words isn’t exclusive to Repubs. The elephant party is better at it, but the donkey party does it too.
In fact, Luntz has expressed indignation at Democrats for “misleading” citizens with “poll-driven language.” I’ll bet the irony never struck him until someone pointed it out.
Lately I’ve seen less sophisticated Dem partisans try to stifle criticism of the President by labeling critics “Obama haters.” There’s no need to respond with substance, after all, if you can just get people to regard the speaker as filled with blind hatred.
Don’t expect the Luntz-style attack politics to die anytime soon, since it works rather well. Politicians win with it.
And, like any successful idea, it has crossed borders. The Conservative Party in my native land has embraced Luntzian demagoguery with gusto.
As Canada heads toward a May 2 election, the Conservatives repeatedly invoke the spectre of a “reckless coalition” of opposition parties usurping power if the Conservatives don’t win a majority in Parliament.
They also deride opponents as “soft on crime” and clinging to a “hug-a-thug” mentality, because we all know throwing massive numbers of lawbreakers in prisons works so darn well.
The attack words are repeated as if, as a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen says, politicians think voters are stupid.
It’s annoying, dishonest, and insulting to the populace, and Frank Luntz deserves much of the blame. Shame on Frank Luntz.