Projection and Impeachment
“Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself” Eric Clapton.
Using the propaganda trick of projection, you identify your weakness and project it onto your opponent. (We don’t recommend that you use it.) This trick is on display daily in the impeachment trial. The trick is a perennial favorite of today’s Republican* strategists and has paid off in two centrally important ways: it both obscures their own weakness and makes it appear to be ours.
A bonus for them has been that Democrats often don’t notice that it’s even happening. We seem surprised when we are accused and respond defensively by flinging facts to prove why it does not apply to us. Students of modern psychology know this will not be very effective.
Projection is the classic childish taunt of “I know you are but what am I?” except that Republicans understand that he who accuses first wins. Because they know we’ll respond ineffectively, they bait us with it constantly.
However, there is a silver lining: you can almost always uncover Republicans’ greatest weaknesses and fears by what they project.
Trump says the Impeachment trial is “rigged” because his biggest weakness is that it is; Mitch McConnel has done everything he can to rig the trial according to the wishes of the President. Trump says it’s a “brazenly political act” because it is: Trump and McConnel have chosen to whitewash and coverup Trump’s clear abuse of power to gain political advantage over an opponent. By accusing Democrats of these things, Republican leaders are not seeking to set the record straight; they are not trying to prove anything. The goal is to project their weakness on us and in the process sow enough confusion and doubt that voters get weary and stop paying attention.
This same dynamic operates across other issues. Republicans have chosen to project the cost and choice frames onto Democratic healthcare plans because runaway cost and lack of choice are the greatest weaknesses of the current failed and predatory system the Republicans want to keep in place. (They also get an added boost from their long term strategic framing of taxes as evil.) The projection works so well that we see our own candidates talking about “keeping plans they like” (which restrict choice and ration care) and how much each of their competing medical plans will raise taxes —when our plans will cost less, produce better outcomes and stimulate the economy with greatly increased take home pay.
On voting, Republicans have relentlessly engaged in anti-democratic voter suppression tactics, because the only thing they and the billionaires who fund them are deathly afraid of are citizens voting for representatives who will stop their prime directive of concentrating and protecting wealth. They deflect voter attention from that fact by projecting tales of voter fraud on the poor, people of color and Democrats while engaging in tactics of voter suppression not seen since the days of Jim Crow.
Our response should not be that there is no voter fraud. Remember, facts alone are just not very effective. The proper response is to instead talk about the taking of our sacred right to vote by Republican voter suppression tactics and ask why Republicans are so afraid of voters.
When you encounter Republican projection, the first thing to do is stop and uncover the weakness behind it.
Rather than reinforcing the projection against you by repeating it and attempting to prove it wrong, fashion instead a strong message that fully illuminates your opponent’s weakness.
* Be aware that many Republicans and former Republicans find the current makeup of the Republican Party to be thoroughly dishonest and corrupt. I use the word Republican in this article to refer to the current Republican Party —a party that seems to understand it’s days are numbered and is trying in one last desperate gasp to change our constitutional system so they grab as much power as possible. I wish there was a name for the many Republicans with the integrity to resist.