There’s a story that outlines, in crystal clear terms, the strange new world that the art of modern public relations inhabits.
It’s a story that just keeps going: the endless parade of powerful men being exposed as sexual predators and serial harassers. It’s beyond unnecessary to give the rundown; we all know the big names, and as their numbers grow, it becomes a torrent that’s pointless to try to keep up with. And the unmaskings have reached Congress as well, having already felled Democrats Al Franken and John Conyers and Republican Trent Franks.
And then there are the accusations leveled against Roy Moore.
Rather than catalog those numerous accusations, which have dominated the news for weeks (a rare feat in the news firehose that is 2017) and with which we are all familiar, I want to take a different course and ask a question I’m not seeing discussed elsewhere: which party is handling this situation better and whether or not, from a political and public relations standpoint, it even matters right now.
That last question isn’t one I’m especially thrilled to be tackling, so let’s start at the top; are the Democrats or the Republicans handling this ongoing crisis better? The answer you may immediately be jumping to – that it’s clearly the Democrats – might prove surprisingly incorrect, because we’re not asking a moral question. We witnessed over the course of the 2016 election that stubborn, intransigent denials can work marvels, and obvious evasions can successfully deflect questions almost indefinitely. Less than a month after the “grab ‘em by the p*ssy” tapes leaked, Donald Trump was elected president; the news cycle moves quickly, and the lesson the Republicans learned is that mastering it means winning the day, not the point. From a PR perspective, modern politics operates in 24-hour increments (if that).
We need only look, again, at last year’s election for proof; the drumbeat of scandal that plagued the Trump campaign meant that all it had to do was ignore a problem long enough for it to go away, while the Clinton administration couldn’t avoid the day-in day-out reminders of a single scandal. Trump knew that all he had to do was win the day and he’d be fine; tomorrow, he’d sort out that day. It’s media-driven public relations more than politics itself, focusing on evasion over confrontation on a daily basis.