Marjorie Taylor Green endorses Joe Biden?

A communications error for the ages

Marjorie Taylor Green endorses Joe Biden?

Normally, we would not pollute anyone’s inbox with the toxic gibberish of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. But for the sake of an important lesson in communications and framing, you have to see this new ad from the Biden campaign. In a twist, the ad features Greene in a starring role.

The ad contains footage of Greene launching one of her trademark verbal attacks on Biden. Her speech rattles off a list of things Biden is doing as president. Obviously, she thinks this is a list of bad things. But her list actually makes it seem as if Biden is doing a heckuva job as president, and her comments will sound like a ringing endorsement of Biden’s presidency to most Americans.

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“Joe Biden had the largest public investment in social infrastructure and environmental programs that is actually finishing what FDR started, what LBJ expanded on, and Joe Biden is attempting to complete,” says Greene. “Programs to address education, medical care, urban problems, rural poverty, transportation,  Medicare, Medicaid, labor unions. And he still is working on it.”

Click the image below to watch the video (which, unfortunately, only seems to be available on Twitter):

The Biden campaign wisely cut Greene’s speech into an ad that is both funny and powerful. Based on policy alone, Greene makes a great case for Biden’s second term.

Greene’s error was simple. She rattled off a list of policy ideas without giving any thought to anyone outside of her reactionary Republican audience. While the idea of public investment and strong environmental policy may draw boos in the MAGA fever swamps, these ideas are actually quite popular with a majority of voters. She failed to consider the much bigger audience outside the Republican echo chambers she inhabits, and the Biden team cleverly exploited her mistake.

Greene’s mistake is reminiscent of an error Republican billionaire Meg Whitman made in her 2010 race against Jerry Brown for California governor. Whitman’s campaign tried to paint Brown as a failed politician. But one of her many campaign ads contained the following lines: “Thirty years ago, anything was possible in this state. ... That's why I came to California, so many years ago.”

And who had been the governor when Whitman arrived in California, the land of possibility? Jerry Brown. His campaign jumped on the foible, turning an attack into an asset.

Some lessons:

  1. What sounds bad to some may sound great to others. Always consider how your message might be interpreted outside of your echo chamber. Never assume everyone will draw the same conclusions or automatically share your understanding. Think about how your words can be reversed or reinterpreted to mean different things to different people.
  2. Policy lists are dangerous. Certain politicians like to rattle off policy lists. They reason that the awfulness of the policies will speak for themselves. This is often not the case. Policies that sound terrible to Democrats usually sound great to Republicans, and vice versa. To accuse a politician of achieving their policies is to accuse them of keeping their promises. Don’t make your opponent’s case for them!
  3. Never insult a politician by comparing them to great leaders. Greene explicitly compares Biden to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, two Democratic presidents who vastly expanded the rights and social wellbeing of Americans. FDR led the nation through World War II and the Great Depression, and created Social Security. LBJ established massive programs to reduce poverty, increase education and healthcare, and he expanded civil rights. What a compliment!

What other lessons can be drawn from Greene’s mistake? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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