The Snark Gap

From Salon, a story about attempts to rebrand the Republican party, without actually changing anything:

“How do you make abortion funny?” That was a key question mulled at a major conservative gathering Friday on how to make social conservatism appealing to young people, after an election where Republicans got trounced in the battle for millennial voters (who are are moving even further and further away from the Christian-right on marriage and other issues).

Abortion has to be made funny, the thinking goes, because funny sells on social media, and that’s where one goes to court young people. “You can engage with sarcasm, it’s hard with the abortion issue, but you have to,” said Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins at a breakout panel at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington today on how to win millennial voters. “Unfortunately we have to, because this is the generation that we’ve been dealt.”

The old guard, including the religious right, is not going to budge on the main planks of the party platform: no abortion, no gay marriage, no health care. But those policies are exactly the thing that would need to be nuanced if the GOP has any hope of attracting large numbers of young voters.

Since I’ve been politically aware, the Republicans have simply avoided dealing with this issue. When I was in college, a Republican recruiter basically told me that they had to wait for young adults to graduate and get their first paycheck. Once they saw the withholdings, they’d run to the party that promised lower taxes. This strategy has apparently not worked.

Now the solution is snark. If you can get Republicans on twitter and let them tell jokes, then you can bring in the young folk. Will it work? More fundamentally, can the party of unacknowledged irony be funny?

Travis Korson, the grass-roots director of the Virginia chapter, suggested framing marriage as an economic issue. “Gay marriage undermines that basic family unit,” he said, and that, in turn, hurts the economy.”

That’s funny, in a car wreck sort of way. It’s the same blinkered approach that the GOP has been taking towards gay marriage since the beginning. But the idea that a gay family will somehow not be an economic unit the way that a heterosexual couple will doesn’t make sense. Korson here cannot get beyond his own prejudices to frame an actual argument.

Maybe the old adage is right: only the truth is funny. But the GOP can’t acknowledge the truth.

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