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Monday, March 9, 2015

Harm Offensive: How to turn Rep. Mike Honda's nap into a nightmare

Outrage, not jocularity, is how a potential Ro 
Khanna rematch versus Rep. Mike Honda can 
turn nappy time into a winning strategy.
CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | Today is National Napping Day in honor of the hour lost last weekend for daylight savings time. It could also represent a day of remembrance for the time Rep. Mike Honda nodded off during a debate for funding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security almost two weeks ago.

The episode, which may be the second such nap time news involving Honda in the last year, is ripe for ridicule. In fact, it's too easy of a target that it's not even particularly humorous, but worthy of  face palm for some. Maybe even an excuse for far-right wingers to buy a 24-pack of Bud Light and contemplate that militia they always talk about forming with their neighbors.

The knee-jerk reaction by some who believe Ro Khanna is posed to again challenge Honda's 17th Congressional District seat, is to maximize Snoozapalooza to great effect. After all, Khanna needs only to run the same campaign he waged last year while closing a nearly four-point spread. Nevermind, that seemingly small margin is not slim, but daunting, and won't be closed with hackneyed political advice. Khanna already paid millions for that sort of consulting.

The San Jose Mercury News mused last week that Khanna could simply let the napping incident speak for itself if, in fact, Khanna chooses to run within the year. As if it were only so easy. Mercury News columnist Scott Herhold had this take:
Think of what a talented consultant could do with this shot: If the piece is positive, it could simply show Khanna with the words: "Vote for Ro: He'll stay awake for you."

A negative piece might just show the picture of Honda sleeping with a short inscription and the words, "Paid for by Ro Khanna for Congress," done in much larger type than usual.

And yes, there's always a chance that criticism could backfire and create sympathy for the veteran congressman. It has to be handled deftly. But the danger for Honda is that an attack on his sleeping doesn't need explanation. All it needs is a screen grab from CSPAN.
Sure. It will backfire because it focuses solely on the act, not what it means. Honda acted out what many anti-government types already believe Congress does everyday. That's the snarky angle that will alienate older voters and liberals. Thousands of 73-year-old grandfathers in CA-17 have likely fallen asleep in public in just past month. Little Jimmy's piano recital was probably the impetus. So that doesn't work.

Instead, Honda falling asleep should be illicit disappointment and outrage. But, more importantly, a candidate like Khanna should convey a clear message that this careless act is supremely offensive, the same way Alameda County Democrats and residents said they were offended by Oro Loma Sanitary District board member Laython Landis' use of the n-word earlier this year. A sense of being offended crosses over every demographic, including party lines.

In this instance, Honda falling asleep during a floor debate on funding Homeland Security is a pretty serious subject. However unlikely a terrorist event could have occurred during the potential shutdown of the federal department, the possibility still existed and the potential for blame would have been debilitating for members of Congress...and Honda fell asleep within this scenario. You could say he put America at risk and all that other hyperbole.

That's a winning campaign strategy, as opposed, to Khanna routinely telling voters last year that Honda was a nice guy. This gambit suggests you should vote for Honda, and, of course, that's what they did. But, people are unhappy with government and polls are clear they are very unhappy with Congress. A constant state of feeling offended only mirrors the public's attitude, so it won't feel like they're forcing a teaspoon of cough medicine down the electorate's throat.

As to the specific incident two weeks ago, people will forget about it by next year and if Khanna indeed runs for office, he'll have to manufacture the outrage. Here's some good news: when a guy falls asleep in public it usually isn't an isolated occasion. In that case, you don't have to create the scenario, just wait for the Sandman to arrive at Honda's doorstep.

2 comments :

This is a stretch to suggest this is worthy of being effective as manufactured outrage. Something you make evident with the comparison to someone else's racial slur. Ro did plenty of elderly dog-whistling in the campaign and tried to gin up faux outrage on things worse than this and didn't succeed in getting traction beyond favorable headlines from the Chron or Merc or SJ Inside.

This analysis makes me yawn. You can do better Tavares.

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