What do you do if you’re a political party that wants to differentiate yourself from your opposing party? You highlight your differences. But what if there aren’t many difference? What if you agree with your opposition on 90% of policy issues? Then you have to get creative.
One strategy that is becoming very hip is to associated your opponent with a hostile foreign power. This is by no means a new strategy, but it has undergone some innovations in the last decade. In the US, the strategy’s best known iteration is probably the McCarthyism of the 40s and 50s, and it’s modern sequel of the past four years: Russiagate.
The Democratic Party used Russiagate in a number of different ways and for a number of different reasons. It had the effect of resembling “resistance” when, in fact, very little resistance was taking place. It was also a very effective psyop in facilitating various deep-state agendas like increased militarization, including spending increases and the manufacture of consent for military action in places like Syria and Ukraine. It also paved the way for increased marginalization of the populist left in the form of dishonest attacks on Jill Stein, Tulsi Gabbard and more. All-in-all, it was very successful, although it may not seem so if you view it only through the lens of party politics.
There are several methods for implementing this strategy. You could hone in on an isolated indecent and manufacture strong opinions on it. Russiagate was quite the opposite of this.
The Democrats’ method was to gish gallop the airwaves, to present a large number of small points and hammer them into people’s minds through constant repetition. It’s OK that if one were to look closely into any single point it would lead them to a big pile bullshit. Who would believe them anyways? The rest of your followers would mindlessly accept the theories just because they heard them, hundreds of times, spoken confidently by their favorite news characters. The rules of the game have changed in the post-truth world.
Another advantage to the gish gallop strategy is that it gives you a wide range of subjects to talk about. It allows you to devote so much time to your treason narrative that it drowns out other discussions, ones that you’d rather not have in the public consciousness (Such as “Why did Hillary lose?” or “Why are we starving Venezuelans and Iranians to death through sanctions?” or “It looks like we’re helping Saudi Arabia commit a genocide in Yemen. What the fuck is going on?”).
But, perhaps most importantly, it gives the illusion that you are in opposition to the other party, even when you are working together to pass bills for your mutual corporate donors in congress. And the divide-and-conquer scheme keeps on going.
Last week, the Trump campaign released it’s first “Chinagate” ad to see how it lands. It is a montage of clips of Biden saying he doesn’t like xenophobia and that “they’re not bad folks.” It is, over-all, a pretty weak ad and is not likely to be effective on people with an average IQ or higher.
But it did include a jab at one of Biden’s liabilities. “Biden’s son inked a billion dollar deal with a subsidiary of the bank of China,” Fox’s Stuart Varney says in one clip. If you don’t know any better, you may hear that and think that Biden is uniquely corrupt; but, of course, that kind of thing is par for the course in Washington, and Trump’s family has at least twenty deals of similar shadiness with foreign governments around the world. However, the central theses stands as undeniable: Biden’s family is involved in corrupt dealings with the Chinese government. He has allowed his family members to capitalize off of his position by selling access to him. That could get the suburbanites talking around the water coolers (if they ever go back to work), and that’s all that really matters in this strategy.
The anti-Chinese fear mongering has been ramped up tenfold on Republican-aligned propaganda outlets in the last month or two. It is obviously a top-down agenda. They don’t just stumble on to the same talking points by happenstance.
So what does all this mean? I have a few thoughts about it. Firstly, are we getting to a point where the two neoliberal parties can no longer pretend to differentiate themselves on policy alone? Why do they feel that they now have to resort to McCarthyite campaigns to get ahead? It could be that the fact that they are two sides of the same coin is becoming too obvious in the information age. On the other hand, it could be that the empire is in trouble and cannot survive without increased militarization on multiple fronts.