Call them “deniers”

Posted on June 16, 2021

Before we get to message framing around “election deniers, vaccine deniers, climate deniers, insurrection deniers,” etc., let’s talk about why.

Mitch McConnell and his allies are counting on gridlock to disillusion Democratic voters and diminish turnout in November 2022. They also expect that, like 1994 and 2010, Republicans will increase their off-year turnout to oppose a Democratic President. And pundits generally agree with this scenario.

However, 2022 could be a very different election. As discussed in an earlier IdeaLog, 23 to 33 percent of Republicans don’t believe The Big Lie and nearly all of them may be persuaded to reject any candidate who insists on clinging to Trump’s political fantasies. To be clear, it is a large slice of conservative voters who could become disillusioned.

Very few of those 23 to 33 percent of Republicans will be persuaded by progressive policies. But they may very well vote for the progressive, or abstain from voting altogether, because they just can’t stomach the anti-truth, anti-democracy, anti-American beliefs of Trumpist candidates.

Not coincidentally, emphasizing the other side’s lies will tend to hold the 2020 Democratic/progressive coalition together, driving up turnout. If 2022 is about defending truth, democracy and American values, there is even the potential for a historic political realignment where the parties harden as Trumpist versus anti-Trumpist.

To get from here to there, we have to start framing the debate. An earlier IdeaLog argued that “The Big Lie” is terrific language to repeat and another IdeaLog pointed out that this kind of lying is an essential element of Trumpism. This advice fits alongside those.

Call them “deniers.”

This expression is quite well-established  for “Holocaust deniers,” “science deniers” and “climate deniers.” It is already fairly well accepted to say “election deniers” and “vaccine deniers.” And people have started to say “insurrection deniers,” “racism deniers,” and “gun massacre deniers.”

Keep it up! The word strongly implies either outright lying or foolish blindness to reality. It can be used against Trumpism in a wide variety of circumstances while linguistically pointing out that “denial” is nearly universal among Trumpists. And there are many ways to build out language that uses the term, e.g., calling them “liars and deniers.”

A very recent poll (June 11-13, see page 175) found that 51 percent of Republicans think that the Arizona election “audit” and similar state audits “will change the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.” Thirty-six percent of Republicans were sufficiently grounded in reality to answer “no” it will not “change the outcome.”

This is, or ought to be, mind-blowing. It is one more demonstration that a majority of the GOP can be led to believe virtually anything. But it is also a demonstration, once again, that somewhere around one-fourth to one-third of the GOP is ready to reject the fundamentals of Trumpism.

Our side has to reach out and help them along.