Laughing at a bully

Bruce Lear: “In this election cycle, I’d offer a different approach to dealing with the Bully in Chief. I’d laugh at him.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Remember when First Lady Michelle Obama told Democrats, “When they go low, we go high?” I’d like to revise that just a bit, to say, “When they go low, we laugh at them.”

As school begins, the message has to be, “Bullying is never OK.” Well, President Donald Trump and his ilk has made bullying in politics the norm, and that’s also not OK.

In the old days, some parents (mainly dads) told their kids the fastest way to get rid of a bully was to punch back, preferably in the nose or mouth.

Now, we understand a violent response plays into the bully’s view of the world and tends to escalate things both in the short and the long term. We also know that bullies are insecure people craving immediate, and continuous attention.

Does that sound like the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? If that’s true, how do his opponents cope? Well, we know what doesn’t work.

Senator Marco Rubio responded to the “Little Marco” taunt by clapping back with the insult about hand size. While that taunt may be fine at some bars, it didn’t play well in the Republican debates. Most of the public was left wondering just how low this testosterone fueled fight would go.

Another tactic that didn’t work was to ignore. That’s what Jeb Bush tried. He thought Republican voters wouldn’t take a buffoon like Trump seriously, and so he just ignored the “Low energy Jeb” jab.

In this election cycle, I’d offer a different approach to dealing with the Bully in Chief. I’d laugh at him. I’m not talking about mocking his hair, the length of his ties or his skin tone. I’ve never been a fan of those cheap shots. I’d suggest turning his insults into something his target could use.

Trump is obviously threatened by Vice President Joe Biden, so he gave him the “Sleepy Joe” handle to remind everyone Biden is in his 70s. Never mind that Trump is also in that age bracket. If I were part of the Biden campaign, I’d do tee shirts that say:

“I’m not sleepy, but I am
tired of:
Racist insults,
Kids in cages, and
Presidential lies”
-Joe Biden

Or:

“I’m not sleepy,
But I’ll help Americans sleep
well knowing a
stable leader is in charge”
-Joe Biden

Another candidate who threatens Trump and who he labeled early on, was Senator Elizabeth Warren. Trump meant “Pocahontas” as am insult since he understands nothing about history, and he believes Warren’s heritage is not part Native American.

Although the facts have often been overshadowed by folklore, most historians believe Pocahontas was brave, resilient, and smart. After all, we do know she served as an emissary between the native Americans and the colonists and also had a plan that saved the colonists from attack. She was an American hero. Here are a couple ideas for the Warren campaign:

“Be like Pocahontas,
Strength, Intelligence,
And bravery!
-Elizabeth Warren

Or

“Like Pocahontas,
“I have a plan for that.”
-Elizabeth Warren

I’m sure the Biden and Warren campaigns can come up with much better retorts from what Trump thinks as an insult so and they can turn taunts into tributes.

No matter which Democratic candidate is nominated, she or he will have to endure being called a socialist by the entire Republican machine. I would ask any Republican who uses the term as an insult to first define it. My guess is from the president on down, they can’t provide even a remotely cogent definition. If you don’t believe me, just look at some of the comments on Facebook.

Since the majority have no idea what socialism is, they can use it as an insult to describe any program they dislike. Socialism is a connotative word for those about 60 or older. The term is meant to scare them into thinking of the government taking away private land ownership and distributing the wealth. In other words, “Communism.”

For those under about 60, the connotation is lost, and when they think socialism, they tend to think of a powerful senator from Vermont who advocates “Democratic socialism.” It just doesn’t scare them.

The problem is Democrats have to knit a coalition between these generations to win. The nominated candidate will need a response to the label of “socialist” because it gives at least part of the voting coalition the chills.

I think the best way is to confront it. In a debate, I’d ask Trump to define it. If he’s talking about social programs like Social Security or Medicare, it gives our candidate the perfect launching platform. If he can’t define it, he looks like the historic idiot he is. No, this won’t convince his base, but it may sway some marginal Republicans or independents.

We don’t have to accept that bullies will always be with us. Taking the power from the words might just turn the insults into something that can be used. I agree with Mark Twain: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ‘Tis the difference between the lightning bug and lightning.”

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and recently retired after 38 years of being connected to public schools. He was a teacher for eleven years and a regional director for the Iowa State Education Association for 27 years.

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