Democrats tend to talk about what we want to do. Specifically. Raise the minimum wage. Protect the environment. Provide jobs for working people. That’s admirable, but it’s not marketing. And it’s not working.
I am not suggesting that we change our beliefs or our goals. I am, however, suggesting that we learn marketing from the people who have won the vast majority of elections in the United States over the last third of a century.
Republicans almost never talk specifically about what they plan to do. That’s why they can’t get their ACA repeal-and-replace* done. They wound up having to talk out loud about what they were actually going to do, and their voters said, No, you don’t, either.
What Republicans actually do is give taxpayer money to their rich friends, and make sure that as little as possible of that money comes from said rich friends. They also work unceasingly to allow their rich friends to take public property for their private gain, and to destroy whatever natural resource they need to destroy in order to maximize their profits. That’s pretty much it. Everything else is window dressing.
They don’t tell the public that. They don’t campaign saying, “Let’s take the public education budget and give it to some rich people.” They don’t say, “Billionaires don’t want to pay taxes, and we don’t want them to.” They talk about Choice in education, and they talk about Job Creators.
Republicans don’t say, “Let’s take Joe Sixpack’s hunting grounds away from him and turn them into strip mines.” They say, “Big government is restricting business’s access to valuable resources for environmental extremists.” Republicans don’t say, “It would be all right if Americans had to wear breathing masks to go outdoors like they do in China as long as a few rich people got even richer,” they say, “Unreasonable, unscientific regulations keep America from competing globally.”
I’m not recommending that we turn into Republicans, but why can’t we say, “Make your daily commute easier,” instead of “Provide job opportunities in communities of color”? We might toss in “Stand firm against urban violence.” “Stop heroin addiction at the source.” Either way we pass bills to rebuild and expand highways through America’s cities, and we tack on local hiring requirements . We build electric commuter rail. We build a national high speed rail network. We never talk about any of them; we talk about jobs, we talk about solving rush hour traffic jams. We talk about solving long lines at airport security.
There are far better odds that good jobs for American workers of all colors will “Crack down on violence” and “Improve your commute” than there are that giving more money to the rich will create jobs. There is a good chance that good jobs building railroads through rural America will ameliorate the heroin and opioid addiction problem. We don’t have to lie about it, but we do have to sell it for crying out loud. Why do we go say, “Bring black unemployment down to the same levels as white unemployment,” and get slammed down because it’s a Taxpayer Funded Government Giveaway? Sell the sizzle. This isn’t an original idea.
I’m not advocating that we give up one single goal, not one single objective, one single principle, nothing. I’m advocating that we talk in more positive language so we can sell our plans to Joe Sixpack and Arnold J. Drywine.
We need one overarching message that ties together every single thing we want to do. I propose some combination of “Realizing our Founders’ vision” and “Solving real problems for the American People.” Something along these lines. We need to pound on that message. One message repeated every day; one answer for every question. And we need to pound on jobs and economic growth.
We absolutely must take these issues away from Republicans. The first step is to tie Republicans to the mess the country is in today. The way to do this is to make it clear that Presidents don’t run the country, Congresses and states run the country, them and the private sector. Republicans have owned Congress throughout most of the last two Democratic presidencies. Republicans own almost all of the states. Everybody agrees that the economy isn’t working very well for the middle and working classes. Why do we allow the Republicans to tie that long-term failure to two individual Democratic men, Presidents, when Republicans control almost all the levers of government at all levels and have for longer than many of their voters have been alive?
If government is the problem, and in many ways it is, it is because Republicans are the government, and they can’t govern for shit.
Getting our message in order and selling it is not a quick fix. We need to start now, and stick with it until we get it right. Republicans launched their message (“Government is the problem”) during Ronald Reagan’s first campaign for President in the 1970’s. They have pushed that message, that one message, for almost 40 years. They didn’t take over the country overnight, but they have taken over the country. If Democrats don’t figure out that campaigning is marketing and winning elections comes from selling the best story, Republicans will control the United States forever.
Want a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage? Fine. Quit talking about it. Talk about economic growth and activity. Virtually all economists across the spectrum from left to right agree that over 70 percent of all economic activity comes from consumer spending. Virtually all agree that the lower a consumer lives on the economic ladder the higher the percentage of his or her income gets spent.
Lets take that a little farther. What creates jobs? Unsatisfied demand creates jobs. If businesses can’t turn out as many widgets as customers want to buy, they have to hire people. Not as many as before, because machinery makes most of the widgets today, but even now it takes people to put labels on the boxes and stack them at the loading dock. If demand increases enough somebody has to make more automated manufacturing machines. And scattered among those machines are a smattering of machine operators.
It is a blatant lie that anyone anywhere creates a job because he has spare money laying around that the tax man didn’t take. People only create jobs when they think they see an opportunity to make some money by hiring somebody. That takes demand. So: let’s “incentivize the job creators” by “increasing purchasing activity” by – you guessed it – increasing the minimum wage, so working people buy more stuff. But we never, never say, “Increase the minimum wage.” We say, “Increase purchasing activity,” and pass the minimum wage increase in Congress while the American people watch football.
We can do this. Surely we’re not this stupid.
*Obamacare / ACA repeal and replace: give control over America’s health back to the usual handful of billionaires who own the health insurance industry in order to maximize their profits at whatever human cost.