The Democratic Message
Adopted by the Santa Clara County Democratic Club, April 20, 2015
Whenever Democrats lose elections the explanation frequently seems to be, “We didn’t get our message out!” If that's the problem, then we need to be much more proactive. We need to put our message out!
The old adage that the best defense is a good offense was too often forgotten in the 2014 mid-term elections. Too few Democrats noted that when the American public feels ill at ease because things are not going right, they blame the President. Democrats need to consistently redirect this blame to where it belongs, on Republican obstructionism. There are many, issues on which Republicans are simply wrong with their facts, their logic, or both. These are the issues on which Democrats can and should have run.
There are four principles that Democrats must always keep in mind for their message:
· Keep it short.
· Keep it simple.
· Always appeal to emotions, not intellect.
· Repeat the short, simple, emotional message over and over again.
Keep it Short
Keep the message down to at most three issues. Here are three that would have worked and could still work in 2016:
· The economy.
· The Affordable Care Act.
Keep it Simple
The Economy: The Republican program for fixing the economy is “Cut taxes on the ‘job creators’ (by which they mean the super-rich) and just let the benefits 'trickle down' to the middle class."
The Republicans have given the rich huge tax cuts over the last 30 years, so why are those of us in the middle class not seeing the benefits? Moreover,
· Given all their tax cuts, why can’t the Republicans explain the fact that we have been in the slowest economic recovery in the last 100 years?
· Why did Republicans force more tax cuts for the rich into the Obama stimulus package, which saved the economy from complete collapse but might have done much more?
· Why did Republicans block every jobs program the President proposed?
· Why did Republicans obstruct regulation of the banks that almost destroyed our economy and then foreclosed on our homes?
· Why do Republicans keep proposing budgets that benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else?
In short, Republicans just don’t understand economics and how to run an economy.
The Affordable Care Act: Avoid using the term “Obamacare” because too many people oppose it while favoring “The Affordable Care Act.” Ask:
· Did you know that 16 million more Americans are now insured because of the ACA?
· Do you want to be sure your health insurance will actually cover you if you get sick and not be canceled? Well, Republicans voted against that - over 50 times!
· Do you want to be sure your health insurance won't run out if you get really, really sick? Well, Republicans voted against that, too!
· Did you know about these features of the ACA?
· Seniors get a discount on prescription drugs.
· Small businesses get help in providing health insurance for their employees.
· Greedy insurance companies must spend at least 80% of customer payments on medical care (not administration and executive salaries).
· The ACA uses a market-based approach that reduces costs, increases health outcomes, and does not increase the deficit or debt.
Immigration: Do you want to see families split up? Republicans, the party of “family values” is strongly opposing programs by Democrats that would keep families together.
The Senate passed an immigration reform bill with support from both parties, but the Republican-controlled House, in another example of Republican obstructionism, has prevented a vote on the bill.
Other issues: There are many topics that could be used in an effective message. Select any two or three from the following list and repeat over and over and over:
· Increase the minimum wage;
· Provide jobs by investing in infrastructure;
· Reduce the costs and interest on student loans;
· Expand the Affordable Care Act to achieve health care for all;
· Reduce the cost of medications;
· Overturn the Citizens United decision;
· Strengthen Social Security and Medicare;
· Enforce Dodd-Frank financial reforms;
· Re-institute Glass-Steagall banking reform;
· Institute a tax on stock market transactions;
· Restore the authority of the National Labor Relations Board;
· Provide universal pre-school;
· Reduce the costs of higher education;
· Pay for all this by increasing taxes on the super-rich.
Public opinion polls have shown that most voters, including Republican voters, approve of these. Use them!
Appeal to Emotions
Be very cautious about using numbers and statistics. Don't say: "When Obama took office unemployment was 10%; today it’s 5.8%." Numbers and logic appeal to policy wonks – most of whom already support Democrats – but they're confusing to many other voters. We need to reach voters with simple terms they can relate to on an emotional level. You might say, “When Obama took office huge numbers of people were losing their jobs or their homes. Now Obama’s policies have caused the economy to grow benefitting millions of people.”
Use personal stories whenever possible. Example: Norma Bernal was born in Mexico and is here without the proper papers. She has three children all born and raised in the U.S. and are American citizens. She failed to see a no trespassing sign and was arrested and deported. A mother was taken away from her children! Republicans fail to take action to prevent such abuses. And this pretends to be the party of family values. Emphasize the hypocrisy of the Republicans. There are countless examples.
Repeat the Message
Republicans are wrong on the economy, wrong on health care, wrong on immigration, wrong on women’s issues, wrong on foreign policy, wrong on the environment, wrong for America.
Repeat until the voters can’t get the message out of their heads, until they dream about it, until they have nightmares about how “Republican” spells “disaster!”
The principles outlined about should be flexible. Your message should be tailored to the level of education of your audience. Arguments that sound great to you may not inspire your audience.
Some analysts, even liberal ones, have written off Democratic control of the House until at least 2022, after the 2020 census and redistricting, because Republicans control so many governorships and gerrymandered districts. It would be obscene to suggest that there is little point in fighting back for now. We can take back the House and the Senate and keep the presidency in 2016 by putting out a bold, strong message starting now and forcefully emphasizing to everyone that to vote Republican is to vote against their own interests.
Keep this in mind: If we can convince the senior, white, working class voter in the hinterland of Alabama that our progressive program is in his or her interests, we can convince anyone!