We've all heard it, the political discussion that devolves into fat-shaming, looks-shaming or slut-shaming. The name calling, "Mann Coulter." "Caribou Barbie." "John Edwards, Breck Girl." "House Negro."
So how do we talk about people we dislike and disagree with and yet not slip into name-calling?
1) Define what you dislike about the person.
Sarah Palin is a frequent target of mockery for her lack of coherence, her folksiness and her heinous policies. It is not okay to mock her exaggerated "you betcha" accent. It is, however, fine to say "She's a ladder-pulling secessionist theocrat and her ideas terrify me." Especially if you can provide references that back it up. (A ladder puller is one who benefits from a program or policy and then works to destroy it. They have climbed the ladder and pulled it up after them) Mitt Romney is a vulture capitalist who killed Kay-Bee Toys is a fair assessment of his business practices. Bill Clinton destroyed the country with neo-liberal trade policies which shipped out jobs is also fair. "Ann Coulter is a horse-faced transexual" is not acceptable. "Ann Coulter should be forced to live in the world she envisions" is.
2) Attack the policies, not the person.
Don't call Ted Cruz a Canadian-born Cubano or Bobby Jindal an anchor baby (he's not), or Barak Obama a Halfrican Muslim. Say "Ted Cruz benefited from our immigration laws and now he wants to prevent others from doing so." Say "Bobby Jindal got birthright citizenship, yet would deny it to others." As for the President, there is much to criticize starting with the TransPacific Partnership and moving through endless policies that support banks and Wall Street while only minimally aiding working Americans. His color is the least of it.
3) Keep looks out of it.
Ann Coulter is a specific variety of thin blonde. Yes, she has an adam's apple. My daughter is the same sort of thin blonde. She too has an adam's apple. This physical feature does not make either one of these women into men. Chris Christie is fat. Michelle Obama is a black woman. These things encourage their detractors to mock their appearance, comparing the First Lady to a gorilla and the governor to Boss Hogg or other fat characters or animals. This is not a way to keep your credibility. "Hilary Clinton is an old woman with cankles" is not reason to hate her.
4) Fact Check.
When Rush Limbaugh said something about women having to take a birth control pill every time they had sex, he looked ignorant, but people believed him. When people conflate Plan B/The Morning After Pill (which prevents ovulation and pregnancy) with RU486, a chemical abortion (ends an established pregnancy), people who don't know better believe them and then we have a deuce of a time teaching them facts. Make sure you have the facts right before you attack, or you start talking about things like legitimate rape.
5) Know your own positions and frame the other people in reference to them
I am about American jobs for American workers. The GOP candidates are calling for more off-shoring, more protection for the top 1%. Clinton isn't saying much. Sanders has made it a key point in his campaign.
I am for a strong social safety net. The president has indicated he's willing to consider Social Security cuts. The GOP candidates want to eliminate the program entirely, along with every other bit of domestic spending. Sanders wants to expand the safety net and is opposed to cutting Social Security.