In politics, the battle isn’t won by who wins the argument. The battle is won based on what the argument is about to begin with. If the prevailing political news topic in the media and in public conversations is a topic that works in the Democrats’ favor, such as abortion rights, then the Democrats are winning the day. If the prevailing topic is a topic that works in the Republicans’s favor, such as Biden’s age, then the Republicans are winning the day.
It’s why I like to say “Don’t take the bait” when it comes to certain topics. If the Republicans are talking about Biden’s age, and you fight back against them on that topic with a compelling and winning counterargument, you’ve still lost. You’ve allowed the debate to be about a topic that’s not good for the Democrats, when you should have ignored that topic and immediately pivoted the conversation to a topic that’s bad for the Republicans.
Put another way: if what persuadable voters in the middle are hearing all day is arguments about Biden’s age, what they’re going to hear is that Biden is old. It doesn’t matter who’s “winning” the argument about Biden’s age. It matters that they’re hearing an argument about Biden’s age, a topic which cannot possibly help Biden, and can only potentially hurt him.
In that same vein, January 6th is a topic that is automatically bad for the Republicans. Every persuadable voter out there knows that Donald Trump incited it and that the Republicans went along with it, and that the attackers were Republican supporters. All we have to do is bring up January 6th and make it the topic of the day, and we win. The Republicans can argue that it wasn’t a serious attack, or spew conspiracy theories about how someone else did it, but that doesn’t help them at all. If the prevailing topic of the day is January 6th, then the Republicans automatically lose that day.
Republicans have caught a break on that front of late. The Oath Keepers and Proud Boys trials have come and gone. There are very few new January 6th related events. Donald Trump’s January 6th trial is still a few months off. It’s a bit of a grace period for the Republicans, where January 6th isn’t coming up of its own accord, and if we try to bring it up, people just wonder why we’re beating a dead horse. So you’d think the Republicans would have the sense to not bring it up themselves.
You’d think. But then again, this crop of House Republicans is the dumbest and least politically savvy to come along maybe ever. I’m not saying that because I don’t like them. I’m saying it because it’s objectively true. The dumbest thing on earth that the Republicans could do right now is bring up January 6th and put it back into the public conversation and give the media an excuse to cover it anew. Yet that’s exactly what House Republicans are now doing.
“Speaker of the House” Mike Johnson, who has less political savvy than the fire ant that bit me the other day, has decided that now is a good time to release (or re-release) a bunch of January 6th surveillance footage from the Capitol. I guess the idea is to release the most mundane footage out of context, and then falsely argue that it proves that the overall attack couldn’t have been much of anything. That is not a winning argument at all. But even if it were, all it does is put January 6th back into the headlines – which means it’s automatically a losing move even if the Republicans did have a winning argument somewhere in there.
Why are these House Republican idiots doing this? They just don’t seem to understand that you win the day in politics by controlling the topic. If the other side brings up a topic that plays poorly for you, you try to change the subject. You certainly don’t bring up a topic that plays poorly for you, just to relitigate it.
It appears that Mike Johnson and the House Republicans are making the rookie mistake that a lot of people make when they first get on the national political stage. They still think it’s about firing up their own base. They think that alone is somehow going to get them a majority. They don’t have any idea that winning on a national level requires speaking to the people in the middle who are trying to decide whether to vote Republican or stay home, and the people in the middle who are trying to decide whether to vote Democrat or stay home. Those two groups always decide who controls Congress, not the Fox News audience.
Yet here we are, watching House Republicans commit a major unforced error by trying to religitate January 6th – a topic that’s an automatic loss for them – at a time when no one was talking about January 6th. This is like spending a first date bringing up your own history of bad breakups just so you can defend yourself. You’ve automatically blown it just by bringing up the topic, regardless of what you have to say about it. These House Republicans have no idea what they’re even trying to do – and it shows.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report