Now the Bush-Cheney political campaign is telling all who will listen that they will spend the next month running a massive ad campaign (with a price tag of $30 million and no doubt supplemented by on-message talking points sent out to the all the foot soldiers) aimed at mocking John Kerry as a undistinguished and risible figure. According to the Times, this will culminate at the GOP convention where Kerry will be portrayed as “an object of humor and calculated derision.”
(As a side note, this telegraphing of a looming attack is classic Rove — a topic we’ll return to.)
This makes sense on a number of levels.
First, the Kerry campaign now faces about four weeks of serious strategic vulnerability. They’re now under the post-convention public financing caps, while the Bush campaign is not. That means that they’re going to be hard pressed to match that spending dollar for dollar since they’ve now got a static budget that has to last them through the end of the election.
Hopefully for them the Democratic party and other independent Dem-oriented groups, while not allowed to formally coordinate on such things, will have Kerry’s back on this during this period.
The more discussion-worthy point, however, is the use of humor as a political weapon — mockery, derision, diminishment.
Republicans are very good at this. And it can be a tool that is deceptively difficult to respond to or combat. Effective mockery is ‘sticky’, hard to shake off, hard to parry. And it appeals to people’s appetite for fun and humor.
Indeed, it’s not just contemporary Republicans who have a knack for this. There seems to be something intrinsic to the reactionary or right-leaning mentality that gravitates toward this method of political combat. Think of the Tory pamphleteers and essayists of the 18th century in Great Britain or others of a more recent vintage in the US.
This is potent stuff. And Democrats would do well not only to be on their guard but consider applying this approach to the current president, who is more than a bit ripe for such treatment.