[Elevated from the Diaries - MB
Most people have not heard of Billy James Cobin of Democracy for New York City
. And yet, if the party were smart, they would have him give a one day session on how to build winning message. He has a simple three step program, and it would, in an instant, blow away the smoke and fog over why Republicans win the message wars.
Ethos, Pathos, Logos. That's all Greek to you? It won't be shortly. (Second Post here.)
is where we get the world ethical. As Billy tells it, the first step is establishing trust. Without trust, without the sense that an individual is trustworthy, nothing else they say matters. The converse however is not true: one can use untrustworthy proxies to attack the otherside's trust. Think Swifties. People didn't find them credible, but their job was just to drag Kerry's trustworthiness down.
Trust first. But also trust based on ones own characteristics - on how one presents oneself.
One can see how Republicans attack trust - by attacking government waste and mismanagement, even when carried out by Republicans - and yet, it always manages to sound like an attack on the trustworthiness of Democrats. Democrats for their part, commit a mortal sin: they give away trust to others who should not have it. Once you allow the opponent into the circle of trust, then what he says, no matter how outrageously false, is taken more seriously. Which means that the Democratic habit of saying "I like..." some member of the other side, has got to go, unless immediately followed with "...but you can't trust him." Like, by itself, implies trust.
The second step is Pathos. Pathos is the emotional appeal. Too many on the left want to "change people's minds". But hearts comes first.
There are two parts. The first is that you have to have a graphic emotional consequence. "We wouldn't want to find out that the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud". "Vote for us or marriage is over." The Republicans get this.
The second part of pathos connects back to trust: that two speaker and the listener are simpaticco. They feel the same way about the world. The destruction of Micheal Dukakis was about tearing down that his heart resonated with the average American. He wouldn't seek bloody revenge illegally if his wife was killed, for example. And he didn't have the speed on his feet to realize that he had turn the question on its axis.
The establishment of emotional connection is where religious symbology is important. Religion is how people express their emotional union, solidarity and oneness. The are disgusted by the same things, repelled by the same things, have the same dreams, the same stirrings. The Democratic Party has been attacked because it will not take religion where it crawls on its belly - forming into a demonology of anti-homosexual bigotry and a foam of the culty of country.
And it fails in the other direction. Wanting to engage in charity to protect the weak, the young, the sick, the poor, those struck by disaster or circumstance - they do not embody these in religious cloth. We can have Jesus Christ CEO, only because the warnings against Mammon, Greed, and Pride are not repeated in public.
But one can also not establish pathos before trust. This is a common mistake of activists - they go on about some small event which has occured, as a way of stirring up sympathy for their cause, or against the other cause - but they do so from a position of not being trusted. Without trust, people will write it off as an anecdote.
Then, once you have bonded with the listener, and shown them that action now is essential or terrible consequences will befall them, then, and only then, do you get a clear bright channel to speak to their reason and "change their mind". Rooting in emotional appeal the logos of the situation. The entire sequence is the journey of any creation myth - first there is nothing, and without trust there is nothing, then there is the chaos of the void - which is the emotional person, torn by conflicting impulses. Then, and only then, can word make logic and order.
As Mr. Cobin himself points out - it is all very old and contained in Aristotle. But we often need reminding.
So three stages: ethos,pathos,logos - in that order. Don't use logic to turn aside attacks at the emotional level - appeal back to the basic level of trust. Don't let attacks to ethos stand, and don't give away the entry to trust easily.
And in this particular moment, the Democratic Party needs more reminding than usual. So, seriously, get this man in front of the Democratic Party's message people, get them to learn the three step program. Get them to understand the three phases of the game.
Only then can they play the game - learning how to blunt attacks and moves the otherside makes. Learning how to dismiss appeals by awakening a different sense. But that's for a later post.