Mazie Hirono: Democrats have a hard time connecting with voters because we know so much

A leftover from yesterday. I keep wondering when Hirono’s going to throw her own hat into the ring for 2020. Granted, senators from Hawaii don’t usually compete, but she’s a more forceful spokesman for her side’s various chauvinisms than, say, Cory Booker is. That has to be worth something in a national primary. What’s the case for Kirsten Gillibrand over Hirono, for instance?

She knows what liberals want to hear. To wit:

“[O]ne of the things that we Democrats have a really hard time is connecting to people’s hearts instead of here,” Hirono said, pointing to her brain. “We’re really good at shoving out all the information that touches people here,” she continued, again pointing to her head, “but not here,” she said, touching her chest.

“I have been saying at all of our Democratic Senate retreats that we need to speak to the heart, not in a manipulative way, not in a way that brings forth everyone’s fears and resentments, but truly to speak to the heart so that people know that we’re actually on their side,” Hirono added.

“We have a really hard time doing that, and one of the reasons that was told to me at one of our retreats is that we Democrats know so much that is true,” she said. “We have to kind of tell everyone how smart we are, so we have a tendency to be very left brain and we think, this—really, that is not how people make decisions.”

There’s only one thing that makes a partisan happier than being told that their party’s political problems are merely messaging problems, as messaging problems are comparatively easy to fix. That’s being told that they’re too cerebral, that they’ve got the “policy mastery” part of politics down but need improvement in soft retail skills like telling affecting stories — the sort of thing anyone can do. Just be yourself. Speak from the heart. Preach the ideological gospel and people will follow. The keys to total victory are already in hand! Righties aren’t immune from this either.

And yet virtually every Democratic policy preference, from big-picture matters like climate change to annual haggling over how much spending will increase (increase, not shrink), is framed nowadays in terms of just how many people will die if they don’t get their way. It was a canard of Democratic messaging even before Trump entered politics that Republicans are motivated by malevolence or near-sociopathic indifference, from Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan on down to the red-state rank and file. Ryan wants to cut Medicare because he doesn’t care about the elderly, conservatives oppose teachers’ unions because they don’t want children to learn, tear gas is being used at the border because Trump hates immigrants, and on and on. Every Democratic messaging pitch is a pitch to the heart/gut, first and foremost, usually in the most dire terms. Here, for instance, is Hirono herself being asked a question about due process and suggesting that someone who thinks like Kavanaugh does might not deserve the same presumption of innocence:

Tapper asked Hirono whether Kavanaugh should receive the “same presumption of innocence as anyone else in America,” to which Hirono replied, “I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases.”

“When I say that he is very outcome driven, he has an ideological agenda, very outcome driven, and I could sit here and talk to you about some of the cases that exemplifies his ability to be fair,” Hirono added.

There are many things one can say about the thesis that judicial conservatives should receives less due process because they’re more likely to lie and/or commit youthful rapes, but “it’s too cerebral” isn’t one of them. You could as easily argue, in fact, that because Democrats aim for the gut so often, in such hysterical ways, that more space politically has opened up for a figure like Trump whose worst excesses can be excused as “political incorrectness” in response. Whom do you want answering Hirono’s charge? Someone who’ll say, “It’s preposterous to glean credibility from judicial philosophy, and if anything it’s proponents of the ‘living Constitution’ who are more likely to twist words to suit their own self-interested purposes”? Or someone who’ll say, “F*** her and f*** everyone who agrees with her”? Which response better communicates the contempt her aim-for-the-gut message deserves?

I’m excited to see that she’s done with politics that “brings forth everyone’s fears and resentments,” though. Any day now.

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