I spend much of my time thinking about communication. When I think about politics I mostly think about communication, and all its pieces.
What do we, as people who call ourselves Democrats (or who perhaps won’t quite go that far but who share our goals) communicate? What is our, for want of a better term, narrative? What is our story?
How do we communicate our story? How do we tell it? What will be our medium of communication? From the many possible media, which will we choose?
Where do we put our message to communicate it to the public?
Why does it matter?
Will we communicate by words? By pictures? By moving pictures? By some combination, maybe pictures with words printed on them? Moving pictures that speak? Words spoken by your telephone or the doors on your car?
How will we distribute our story? Who will carry our words, pictures, and video? Will our words be read or will they be heard?
Will our words be seen and heard by many, or by few?
Who will compose our story? Who will tell it? I ask again: what is our story?
I have not heard what I consider to be a coherent Democratic story in so long I can’t remember when. Fragments. Policy sound bites. But no coherent, what’s a Democrat, story at all.
The reason that these questions are in my mind is because Democrats have failed utterly to formulate and deliver a message that will cause people across the country to want to get out on election day and vote for us. We lose elections over almost all the country, almost all the time.
Republicans govern almost all states. No, not the biggest ones, but almost all of them.
Republicans govern the United States. They control both houses of Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court.
I acknowledge the coup, the Russian attack, and the election fraud. I know everything you could possibly tell me about gerrymandering. It is my opinion that those things are result, not cause. We lost first; Republicans joined up with Russia in hopes of making it last forever. It wouldn’t have happened without a prior Democratic failure to communicate and our resultant electoral and societal drift into irrelevance. Cool Hand Luke was right.
To me this is absolute proof that we have failed to formulate and communicate a message which makes people across this vast country want to vote for us. The Republicans are Walmart; we are J.C. Penney. So I worry about communication.
What to say. How to say it. Where to say it.
And at the same time,
What not to say. How to not say it. Who not to trust with our message.
Or as Bob Seger put it in Against the Wind, “What to leave in, what to leave out.”
Cause I’m older now, but I”m still runnin’ against the wind.
I’m going to put those questions in order:
What to say
I am going to plagiarize here, but it’s from myself. This is from another essay; I can’t say it better so far. But like any good plagiarist I change a few words.
We Democrats campaign, in the modern buzzphrase, with too granular a message. That is to say, we talk about detailed policies. For nationwide campaigning we need to stick with statements of principle. Republicans have a statement of principle. Ask any RepubIican what it means to be Conservative and they can give it to you like the Scout Law. Democrats can’t do that. We must learn to in order to compete. The Scout Law is there for a reason.
Here is the Democratic Scout Motto:
A good, functioning government can solve social and economic problems that cannot be solved by any other entity. The Framers wrote that very principle in the Preamble to the Constitution for the United States.
Here is the rest of our Scout Law.
Although scientists don’t know everything there is, science is the way to bet. Betting against science is a sure fire recipe for disaster.
The very richest among us, the people who have benefited the very most from life in America, can help out the people who haven’t done as well, and can fund some other public needs like a sensible, non-carbon-based nationwide transportation system. The better America has treated you the better you should treat America in return.
Jobs are created in response to demand. Demand is the inevitable result of lots of working people with spare money in their pockets. Rich people only create jobs when they see an unmet demand they can make a buck by meeting. It has very little to do with their tax rate. For more information see: Kansas. Economic growth comes from broad based prosperity.
Everybody has the right to a fair shake. We don’t care where you go to church, who you love, what your personal plumbing looks like, what color you are, or what your IQ is, you have a right to be warm and well fed in America. Democrats believe that everyone should have a realistic chance to do such work as s/he is capable of, and should be able to make a decent living doing it. And otherwise be left alone to live in peace.
If your church says you should not do something or marry somebody then by all means do not do that thing or marry that person. However, nobody else is obligated to what your church believes. At all. We actually don’t care. It’s not relevant to governing.
When Americans get sick they have the right to go to a doctor and get the best treatment realistically available. Everybody dies sooner or later and we should help make that transformation as easy as we can for people.
Democrats believe that by ratifying and agreeing to our Constitution Americans agreed to join together for our common defense and to promote our general welfare. Because that’s what it says, after which it spells out some details. Republicans stopped reading after they saw the word defense.
We don’t think government is everything, but we believe that a good functioning government is necessary for a healthy and free society. Democrats understand that everybody everywhere lives under some government. so we think we ought to make ours the very best that we can for our people.
This is all very different from the Republican view. Republicans believe that America should be every man for himself and the government’s only legitimate functions are to keep the poor on the right side of the Interstate and to facilitate transferring almost everyone’s money to the plutarch / oligarch ruling class. They tell their story much better than I do; if you’re curious as to the details you can hear them on any television or radio station in the United States of America.
How to say it
In order to compete with the Republican message, the Democratic message must be carried on television and on radio by nationally powerful and significant networks. These networks do not currently exist. We must build them.
Our current media share and presence is part of our problem. I have another essay talking about that at length. If you’re interested it’s here.
Where to say it
Our message has to be available everywhere that there is a TV, a radio, or an internet connected device, all the time, all day every day and all night every night. There should be no place and no time where the legitimate, honest, Democratic message as above should not be available.
Just like the Republicans do, we reword our message, rework it, and get it into every conversation taking place on some glossy, professional television network. We get funny, entertaining gals and guys delivering it all day on talk radio.
Viewers should see Democratic assumptions in TV drama. The bad guys don’t need to be brown and the working guys don’t need to be stupid. Heroes don’t have to be young and beautiful. Honest they don’t.
Everywhere. Right now today the Republican message is everywhere all day. We need to match that and beat it.
Why bother? What’s the big deal?
For the same reason that companies and organizations will spend 5 million dollars of their own money to put their message on the air for 30 seconds during a Super Bowl: because advertising works.
But we can’t just buy ads. We have to get as good as communicating a simple, understandable, positive message as the Republicans are at spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And they’re really good at it. So good that they are running the entire country.
Our message has to have a potential to attract absolutely any American regardless of color, economic class, or locale. Our message has to give any American, urban or rural, upper middle class on down, a reason to vote for us. Yes, there is such a message.
To win elections. To preserve the America we believe in. To make it better. There’s plenty of room for improvement.