The most powerful response to Ben Shapiro’s tired mantra of “facts don’t care about your feelings” has always been “feelings don’t care about your facts.” Most simply, strong appeals to pathos will always triumph over attempts at stone-cold, emotionless logos.
But perhaps, aside from using emotional manipulation to distort the truth, the only other pitfall that is even more devastating to the “facts and logic” approach is a complete oversaturation of information, to the point that even those in pursuit of data and knowledge become either completely bored, or struggle to make sense out of a plethora of talking points even after the slightest bit of digging.
The pro-impeachment wing of the GOP is about to fall victim to both of these traps.
The Art of Storytelling
In a previous article, I warned that the GOP’s knee-jerk reaction to the Trump indictment would be an impeachment of Joe Biden, and that such a move would backfire tremendously on the party through a very clever appeal to emotion by the Democrats.
To make a long story short, the GOP will be – and by some, already has been – painted as making the impeachment not about Joe Biden himself, but rather, what his son Hunter has done.
Beyond the fact that it is much more difficult to tie these accusations back to Joe himself, rather than just make it about the President from the onset, some are already going straight for the heartstrings by bringing up the Biden family’s genuinely tragic past. Some, such as former Senator Claire McCaskill, have already begun framing the narrative that Biden is being punished by the opposition party for simply being a loving father, standing by his son after their family has experienced such disasters as accidental deaths, health complications, and histories of substance abuse. It may very well be totally fictional, but that’s the point of storytelling.
It is just a fact that the Left have become much better storytellers than the Right, and this is due in large part to their complete dominance of the culture, from Hollywood and academia to pop culture and social media. It is this acquired skill that has allowed the Left to not only dictate what goes up on the big screen or small screens in households across the country, but has also allowed the Left to successfully fabricate new realities out of thin air, from the myth of the gender pay gap to the absurd, yet now widely-accepted, belief in transgenderism.
The Stability of Simplicity
But one of the key elements of successful storytelling at a mass scale is something that the Right has still failed to understand: Simplification.
Four years ago, as the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives was preparing their narrative for the first impeachment of President Donald Trump, a political cartoon was released drawing a contrast between then-Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff and then-Ranking Member Devin Nunes. With an obviously pro-impeachment slant, the cartoon depicts Schiff holding a sign that simply reads: “Trump → Ukraine → Bribe.” Meanwhile, Nunes holds a massive banner with a wide variety of names and phrases – including “Deep State,” “Fake News,” “Steele Dossier,” “CIA,” and “Hunter Biden,” among many others – with arrows pointing to and from every other term in wild directions.
To be clear, the citation of this cartoon is not meant to be a criticism of the work of former Congressman Nunes, whose actions undoubtedly marked the first step towards completely debunking the entirety of the “Russian collusion” hoax. But the point made by the cartoon still stands, a painfully accurate indictment of the GOP as a whole rather than any one congressman.
The Democrats’ narratives are able to be spread far and wide because of their simplicity. On “Russian collusion,” they always stuck to the script: “Donald Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election and install Trump as president.” On the Ukrainian phone call that led to the first impeachment: “Trump called the President of Ukraine and tried to pressure him into investigating Trump’s top political opponent ahead of the 2020 election.”
By keeping the narratives as straightforward as possible, it not only became easier to mindlessly repeat the story across all the major news networks, whether by members of Congress themselves or through their talking head puppets in the media, it became easier for their supporters on the ground to tell all their friends and neighbors. In mathematical terms, it always was as simple as “A = B, and B = C; therefore A = C.”
And, however easy their labors were, the fruits have already been borne for all to see. Despite President Trump’s vindication by Robert Mueller, a significant portion of the population – including those who would otherwise be apolitical – still genuinely believe in the “Russian collusion” hoax, even to this day.
An Overabundance of Details
By contrast, Republicans just cannot help themselves whenever they are trying to depict the latest big “scandal” from Democrats. The multiple congressional investigations leading up to the official impeachment inquiry have put this obsession with the details on full display. While Democrats keep their narratives, fact or fiction, to the simplest “A is B, thus C” explanations, Republicans will go on massive diatribes about how all 26 letters of the English alphabet – and perhaps even some letters of the Greek alphabet – are all connected in their own ways.
As far back as James Comer’s first major press conference, the GOP determination to be as comprehensive as possible has made for repeated disastrous efforts to effectively sell the message of Biden’s corruption. Despite multiple new revelations regarding payments from Romania and China that only add to the Bidens’ increasing mountain of suspicious foreign transactions, any potential substance to the presentation was bogged down by 30-page memos, promises of new subpoenas, and other vague details that made it all too easy for the mainstream media to dismiss it outright as a convoluted mess.
With the formal beginning of the impeachment inquiry, accusations have only increased exponentially, including such tangential stories as something involving the wife of the former Mayor of Moscow, diamonds from a Chinese businessman, and alleged campaign violations by the Biden campaign in 2020, among numerous other stories that have continued to flood the zone and over-saturate the market for Biden-related scandals.
Some have argued that the issue is simply a matter of choosing the right spokesman. Comer, for example, is not the most photogenic and objectively lacks in speaking and presentation skills; thus, one would say that the solution is to simply replace him with a more eloquent member of Congress. Names that have been floated for this purpose include conservative firebrands such as Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene. But as any film enthusiast would tell you, even a great actor can only do so much with the script they’ve been given.
Storybooks, not Encyclopedias
The Right’s tendency to over-detail their every claim and accusation has predated the latest impeachment effort. Perhaps one of the best representations of this trend that is not meant as an ironic political cartoon is this gargantuan graph from The Epoch Times, detailing the involvement of every major player and side character in the plot to spy on President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
While the full-resolution image is indeed very informative and would make for the basis of an intriguing tell-all book that would be promoted at many a D.C.-based think tank, the fact is that a massive cheat sheet like this completely and utterly defeats the purpose of effective messaging. If you present the average American with this billboard-sized chart and expect them to read through it themselves, do not be surprised if many of them balk and then turn away after fully processing the sheer size and volume of it.
If your goal is to persuade the voters that corruption is to be found here, the last thing you want to do is give them homework; it is incumbent upon you to explain the matter to them as concisely as possible, so that your followers can then spread that same simple message to their friends, coworkers, and neighbors. If the brave few try to memorize the entirety of such a colossal pile of information, they will more than likely forget many details, and come across as a raving, bumbling lunatic just as the mainstream media portrays them to be. Even if they were to succeed in reciting the whole of the Epoch Times’ chart from memory, they would simply encounter the same comprehension problem with anyone they are trying to persuade, and the dilemma continues anyway.
Some might respond to this theory with the suggestion that it implies most American voters are unintelligent or uninformed. Only the latter is true: It is the GOP’s responsibility to inform voters in a coherent way since the mainstream media has no intention of doing so. But just because someone fails to find interest in a cumbersome laundry list of names, dates, entities, and other details does not mean they are stupid. It is a perfectly normal reaction to be adverse to excessive levels of required reading in order to understand something, especially if it is not a mandatory assignment like you might find in a classroom.
President Trump understands the importance of simple messaging, and has maximized it before: From simple campaign slogans such as “Make America Great Again” and “Build the Wall,” to nicknames like “Crooked Hillary” and “Low-Energy Jeb.” He didn’t need specific bullet points outlining a 12-step policy program to win the presidency and start a seismic shift in the American political landscape. But as always, the Republican Party has failed to learn anything from the example set forth by President Trump.
To anyone outside of the Jim Jordan fan club, or those who still watch Sean Hannity with a genuine belief that a bombshell will drop any day now, it is still clear that impeaching Biden is a bad strategy that presents no rewards and only risks for the Right; with roughly one year to go before a crucial election, it is a bet that would make most gambling addicts sweat profusely. But at the very least, if the GOP are indeed fully committed to going through with impeachment, it would serve them well to stop hyperventilating over seventh- and eighth-degree examples of alleged corruption by the Biden family, and instead narrow it down to the most basic explanations possible about why he should be impeached.
If they cannot even sell the American people on the impeachment that they insisted on launching, then the best-case scenario will find a second Trump term, starting in 2025, once again dealing with a Democrat-controlled Congress. The worst-case scenario is self-evident: Biden will get up to four more years, with a renewed interest in revenge, and two Democratic majorities ready to help him round up the rest of the opposition.