During the election, the Bush campaign was able to brand Kerry a flip-flopper, and Kerry couldn't shake it.
After the election, the anti-Bushites have branded the pro-Bush crowd. In my conversations with them, they can discuss issues, but when it comes to why they lost the election, their answer is along the lines of "most pro-Bush voters are religious fanatics" and they are convinced the amendments against homosexual marriage brought out tons of super-religious voters for Bush.
I started a conversation in the comments of another blog with an anti-Bushite that showed this branding at work. I am very careful not to brand my opponents in such conversations; you never really know what they believe until they tell you. I never call someone "liberal" or whatever unless they call themselves that. The arguments I made were relevant to the discussion and backed with links to articles that supported my points, and my points were pretty basic. My anti-Bush opponent replied to every comment I made by implying I was a religious fanatic, naive, brainwashed, etc., and then ignored my points. A true moonbat.
My answer to this is not to counter-brand, but to remain rational and treat each person as an individual. As I've written before, it's vital to remember that even someone who brands himself as something (e.g., liberal, conservative, etc.) will have variations -- very few people follow the party line 100%. Consequently, if you want to have any real discussion, it is essential to avoid putting words in your opponent's mouth. For example, just because someone claims to be a liberal, you can't assume they are pro-choice. Or, just because someone supported the invasion of Iraq, you can't assume they even care about WMDs.
But wait a second, Pajama Guy. You just called the guy a moonbat; isn't that branding him?
Sure is. He proved he was one, and brands are often true. But I don't brand everyone who opposes Bush a moonbat; they have to prove to me whether they are moonbats or not on an individual basis. I don't assume it from the beginning. There are some very intelligent, well-educated, well-meaning people who oppose Bush. If we who support Bush cannot recognize that, then we are fanatics, just as those on the other side are fanatics when they can't recognize there are some intelligent, well-educated, well-meaning people who support Bush.
We need discussion; we need the two halves of America to come together and understand each other. You can't do that if you aren't listening, or if you're calling them names so loud they can't speak.
"United, we stand. Divided, we fall." It's not just a catchy saying.