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I've been writing several diaries recently on healthcare reform and the issue of PR and marketing. I'm going to go to continue on this theme and write about the concept of "regular Americans". It follows what I wrote in the last post about marketing ideas and low information voters.

More beneath the fold.

For the purposes of this diary I refer to "regular Americans" as those living in a middle class family. I include families with children and people living in the suburbs and small towns. These are the people who take their children to soccer games, football games, and sporting events. These are the people who are having barbecues and other family events.

What is important to realize about these people is that the vast majority of them don't care about politics. Here it is a Saturday night in the summer. Most people are at home with their families, at parties, having fun, at the movies, or on vacation. They aren't blogging and they aren't paying attention to the issues. Politics is the last thing on their minds. So the key point that I'm making here is that most people are not blogging. They are not out there reading posts or researching the issues. They have neither the time nor the interest to research complex political issues.

Against this backdrop it's important to realize that these voters support candidates who relate to their concerns and issues. At this point I have to say that one of the most important questions that pollsters use when surveying the public about candidates for president is "Does candidate X share my values"? Another key question that matters significantly is "Does candidate X understand my issues and needs"?

Historically--at least since 1968--Democrats and liberals have been on the wrong side of those questions. I hate to bring up to infamous "Who would you rather have a beer with test", but liberals and progressives too often fail that test. And that is a problem for liberal and progressive candidates because the voters are not going to support a candidate who (in their mind) "doesn't share their values or doesn't understand their issues and needs". For whatever reason liberal and progressive candidates aren't able to connect to regular Americans.

For this post I have to state several points that I think that we need to accept. You may not agree with these assumptions and argue that "it shouldn't be that way", but I'm the type of person who deals with how the world is

Point #1:  Most people are "low information voters". You can make whatever judgments you want about that and how "horrible it is", but that is the truth. The average voter doesn't know about the complexities about most policy issues, nor does he/she want to know. The bottom line is that that person wants to know how a certain candidate or policy issue position will "help and protect his/her family". Most voters only want a short and brief answer to this one key question: "What will candidate X or bill Y do for me and family?" They don't want to know anything else.

Point #2: Voters don't value arrogance connected to academia. When the choice comes to down to the attractive football player against the intellectual professor, more than seven out of ten times, the football player is going to win! I've heard many people lament here how "our society values ignorance and stupidity", but we have to work with that construct. Most people don't react well to stuck-up academics lecturing them about values or positions.

What has enabled Republicans like the last President Bush to win elections is that they have successfully portrayed themselves as caring about the ordinary person and being the type of candidate whom the voters would like to have over for that summer BBQ or party. They've been able to successfully portray themselves as being "like ordinary people". Which is quite surprising because the last President Bush hardly grew up like ordinary people. He went to Andover, Yale, and Harvard, the private boarding schools and colleges of the elite. Yet he was able to portray himself as a "regular guy".

Part of this, though, was due to Kerry's mistakes. One key moment that sticks out in the campaign was the infamous footage of him windsurfing in the ocean. But it was more than Kerry who failed to connected on this issue. Al Gore also fell into the trap. Although he won that first debate with Bush, during the whole event, he came off as knowing more and being elitist. Compare Gore to how Biden handled Palin. While Palin clearly lacked the gravitas to be VP, Biden wasn't arrogant toward her. Yes, Biden was smart; but he didn't act like that arrogant professor that everyone had in college and hated.

The key here is for liberals and progressives realize is that it doesn't matter if the candidate takes the right position or even had a position that the electorate supports overwhelmingly, but rather how one presents it that matters. In both 2000 and 2004 the American public agreed with Gore, Kerry, and the Democrats on the issues, but Bush still won because he was able to act less arrogant and less elitist. The overarching point is here is that the facts don't matter; it's the appearance of the facts that does. It's how a candidate or people supporting an issue present their sides that matters.

The side that can present its ideas in a way that the vast majority of the public can understand wins. Also elections and public policy debates are popularity contests. The political arena is very much like high school. Most of the time the jocks win and the nerds lose. That is the blunt truth that's not going to change. Progressives and liberals need to adapt to that mindset.

The bottom line: If a progressive or liberal candidate comes off as being a stuck-up academic, hippie who loves drugs, the worst stereotype of an east or west cost elitist, or if the opposition successfully paints him/her as such, the GOP candidate or the conservative position will prevail.

Point #3: You aren't going to win voters over by shaming them or insulting them into submission. The perfect example of what I am talking about is a clip from the Keith Olbermann show when the tea bagging protests first happened. During this interview activist/actress Janeane Garafalo
goes out of her way to denounce them all as "racists" and calls them "stupid". She comes off sounding elitist and arrogant.

Now, before everyone attacks me and says that I'm wrong for criticizing her, I'll admit that SOME of what she is right. Some of the teabaggers did protest from racist motives. Some of them are ignorant. But it's more how she says it that matters the most. She comes off as being one of those liberals who thinks that she's better than the rest of. She typifies the worst sterotypes that many Americans have of the worst types of liberals: someone from the East Coast or West Coast who looks down on ordinary people and thinks that she's morally superior to then. She comes of as one of those people at a BBQ or party who would complain about burgers or meat being served. Or one of those types of people who takes offense at everything.

Shaming and denouncing works well if you're protesting against a company doing an unjust practice. But it doesn't work well if you're trying to reach voters. Calling voters "stupid" or "racist" (even if some of them) isn't going to convince them to change their mind. Keep in mind that, when some volunteers for Obama were canvassing areas like western PA and SE Ohio, some of the voters told them that "they were voting for the n!gger". I would venture to guess that, in certain parts of the country that lean Democratic but aren't on the coasts, Obama did the get the votes of some racists.

Instead the better strategy is to tell them how progressive policies would benefit them. Answer the simple question that I posted in Point #1. They will consider Democrats if they first believe that the candidate is talking to them from a position of respect and that they can answer the simple questions.

Of course there are voters who won't be nice or who will be responsive no matter what a Democrat says. But the bottom line here is showing respect goes a long way. The route of shame and denunciation is likely to backfire.

Point #4: Don't be negative about America. Americans don't want to hear rhetoric that implies or directly claims that "America sucks" or that "America is bad". They also don't want to hear negative messages about the country. What made both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton successful and two termers who won their re-elections comfortably is that they talked about America in positive terms. Even when it came to problems and challenges they offered optomistic solutions. So the key takeaway from this point is to tell Americans how progressive policies will benefit them, how they will improve this country, and how they will take America to its best potential.

In regards to healthcare the progressive side could easily make these points:

--Healthcare reform will increase choice
--Healthcare reform will provide coverage to everyone
--Healthcare reform will ensure that no one ever faces financial ruination
--Healthcare reform will streamline medicine
--Healthcare reform will enable doctors to do their job without interference
--Healthcare reform will make the US the best country in the world for medical care

Anyway the key point here is that the left has to be better at reaching "regular Americans". I'm not sure if I have all the right answers but these were some of the thoughts that I wanted to share with the group tonight.

Originally posted to oceanstar17 on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 09:53 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Democrats are just very poor communicators (0+ / 0-)

    Republicans speak to peoples hearts and fears, while Democrats(including Obama) simply try to explain process and numbers.  Which one of those do you think will usually win?

  •  lets boil it down (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    k9disc

    Emotions win elections. That's how Obama beat McCain, he appealed to people who are shallow, they liked Obama's smile, his good looks and the fact that he was optimistic. This isn't rocket science.

    As for the issues. The issues have very little to do with why people vote for who they vote for, even here on Dailykos during the primaries the emotional connection to a candidate trumped the issues. People projected their values and views on the candidate they liked.

    And appealing to "regular Americans" is code for middle class white guys, and the middle class white guy is a dying breed.  

    "Basically, I have two speeds.... Hostile or smart-ass. Your choice."

    by jbou on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 10:14:56 PM PDT

  •  Freedom is the issue (0+ / 0-)

    You made some very good observations about connecting with people.  But there's more to it.  There is the assurance of freedom and the assurance that the government will leave the people alone.

    That list of healthcare reform points is questionable, but it doesn't really address the freedom issue.  One provision in the bill is to have the IRS make sure everyone has coverage.  Great!  Big brother keeping tabs on us.  That's not freedom.  Connecting with someone doesn't ease away the concern over loss of freedom.

    •  "Freedom" (0+ / 0-)

      is a talking point mostly for ideological conservatives and libertarians, not the "regular Americans".  For "regular Americans" freedom embodies a vaguely defined good and is not especially something they feel is threatened by something like health care plans.  The fact you use it in the way you do makes me think you are either a "libertarian" or right-winger.  Bush posed a vastly greater threat during his terms to real freedom than any healthcare reform ever could and few on the right cared about it at all, nor did very many "regular Americans".

      Your political compass Economic Left/Right: -6.50 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.67

      by bythesea on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 11:09:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  OK but here's why Palin will never be a contender (0+ / 0-)

    push her buttons and she jumps to the bait every time.  The woman does not know how to take a pass.

    But you are also describing a losing strategy - make nice with the morons so they do not become enraged.  (Think Young Frankenstein.)  Fah!  Enraged seems to be their default mode.  Case in point - the healthcare reform bill.  Give them an inch - or end of life funding - and they want a death panel. Phooey.

  •  FDR (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crashing Vor

    Thr truth is you don't vote for a candidate in our system, you vote AGAINST the other guy.  Franklin had a good run because the republicans had held up business as religion in the twenties and allowed the moneychangers into the temple.

  •  I've heard (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Situational Lefty

    that there's good land available on Mars.

    "We can sing together, but we can't all shout together." (via Kossack ludlow)

    by mieprowan on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 10:48:21 PM PDT

  •  Meh. n/t (4+ / 0-)

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 11:11:13 PM PDT

  •  I find this very offensive on many levels. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    szilard, pico, bythesea, mieprowan

    Most people are "low information voters". You can make whatever judgments you want about that and how "horrible it is", but that is the truth. The average voter doesn't know about the complexities about most policy issues, nor does he/she want to know. The bottom line is that that person wants to know how a certain candidate or policy issue position will "help and protect his/her family". Most voters only want a short and brief answer to this one key question: "What will candidate X or bill Y do for me and family?" They don't want to know anything else.

    Your contempt for the American voter is duly noted.

    "All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental." --Kurt Vonnegut

    by Situational Lefty on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 11:11:20 PM PDT

    •  While simultaneously decrying arrogance, (4+ / 0-)

      which is just too dissonant for words.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 11:32:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  and I always loves me some Pico! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pico, Situational Lefty

        You know, I have your user name penciled on my wall by my reading chair. That must mean something.

        Do I have you subscribed? Ah, yes I does. That was why I wrote it there, to remind me to subscribe to you, should you write diaries. Which you do, at times.

        I suggest you write more!

        Miep

        "To live outside the law you must be honest." Bob Dylan

        by mieprowan on Sun Aug 16, 2009 at 12:28:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's not contempt for the voter (0+ / 0-)

      It's the reality. Most people don't follow politics or care about the issues. How many people are online on a Saturday night talking about politics? Not many. Most of my friends are more concerned about sports, TV shows, movies, and summer stuff. Politics is near the bottom of their list.

      •  pico had it right...'meh'... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mieprowan

        you not only hold the American voter in contempt you also hold your own friends in contempt.

        Politics is at the bottom of the list for most people until it comes time to vote.

        Part of this, though, was due to Kerry's mistakes. One key moment that sticks out in the campaign was the infamous footage of him windsurfing in the ocean. But it was more than Kerry who failed to connected on this issue. Al Gore also fell into the trap. Although he won that first debate with Bush, during the whole event, he came off as knowing more and being elitist.

        I think you watch too much Cable News.

        "All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental." --Kurt Vonnegut

        by Situational Lefty on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 11:45:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  you're way too negative (0+ / 0-)

        You're some kind of concern troll. You aren't upbeat or positive or about doing anything useful.

        Christ, if we had a dictionary here, it would have an entry about "concern troll" and the listing would say "see oceanstar17."

        You're a drag. You bring everybody down. Isn't there anything you're excited about? If so, could you please go and get excited about it somewhere else?

        "To live outside the law you must be honest." Bob Dylan

        by mieprowan on Sun Aug 16, 2009 at 12:31:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  thank you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Situational Lefty

      I thought this diary rather sucked, myself.

      "To live outside the law you must be honest." Bob Dylan

      by mieprowan on Sun Aug 16, 2009 at 12:25:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Totally disagree, well, kind of... (0+ / 0-)

    Low info... check.

    Busy...check.

    Turned off to politics... check.

    For whatever reason liberal and progressive candidates aren't able to connect to regular Americans.

    I think you've got half of it right in values, but your missing the other half. The connection of those values to policy and rhetoric, and that's where the Dems have lost.

    Over and over - "Healthcare for all!" and we wind up with 'shopping for healthcare'.

    Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and Hillary actually talk about people using the word 'consumer' or 'the American Consumer'. The Party of the People think that the People are Consumers. The rhetoric and the Policy that's been kicked out by the Corporate Sponsored Wing of the Democratic Party, the DLC, have borne no resemblance to a People's Party.

    "Cap and Trade" - the 'Public Option' which is on the chopping block waiting for a reprieve - 'S-CHIP' all of these phrases are garbage in terms of matching the values of Empathy, equality, fairness and opportunity and Social Justice.

    S-CHIPS is Children Getting Healthcare, for crying out loud. S-CHIP? Were they trying to lose?

    Democrats need government to accomplish the goals of the people and they've been talking about shrinking it.  

    "The Era of Big Government is Over!" A Democrat said that. Rhetoric not matching values.

    Welfare Reform, from the People's Party - policy not fitting the values.

    Over and over again, policy and rhetoric diverge wildly from the core values of the Democratic Party.

    Barack Obama, Democrat, he'll side with the unions = Change - and what does he do?

    Gives trillions to Banksters, forces no pain or return to sanity, and they pay tens of billions $$$ in bonuses 5 months later. W! T! F!!!???

    That is policy not jiving with values.

    The reason why Democrats have lost credibility is because nobody believes in their dedication to the core values of the party. They don't believe the Party of the People, and why should they?

    "Hey! I'm a really tough Democrat! I'm tougher than him! I'm not afraid to use the military. We're going to use the military to guarantee our way of life."

    That's pretty much the Democratic line since McGovern and Viet Nam.

    That's fucked up! It's not even at all close to the values of the Democratic Party.

    When the Republicans called us Weak on Defense, We should have offered, "Democrats want to use the miliatary to Defend America. Republicans only want War. War is inherently insecure. Republicans are dangerous in terms of Foreign Policy."

    Over and Over...

    But they didn't they made the mistake of believing that the Republicans had 'the issue' 'tough on defense'. But they didn't.

    They had an issue that accurately reflected their core values.

    And the Democrats reinforced it, every single time,
    "I'm tougher than him! I'm not afraid to use the military. We're going to use the military to guarantee our way of life."

    Bill Clinton fires off Rockets at Iraq and He's a coward. Bush does it, he's tough.

    It has nothing to do with Like - a bility, simple speech, or the Beer Buddy factor - it has to do with the policy matching the values.

    Before Obama got into the business of Executive Policy, his rhetoric matched his values - It was Democrat Fever!

    Then when it became clear that he was business as usual and gave the farm away to the foxes who destroyed the henhouse, his walking back on Guantanamo, backpedaling from much of his Change platform, his policy diverged wildly from Core Democratic Values, and all he's left with is Rhetoric.

    People want what the Democratic base wants. On issue after issue they are with us. They don't want a public option they want Medicare for all. They want clean energy and healthy food.

    But the Party is miserable at communicating their values and governing to benefit the people. They go all Republican Lite and put Property and Profits before people.

    That's why we lose.  

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 11:39:58 PM PDT

    •  should read... (0+ / 0-)

      Barack Obama, Democrat, he'll side with the unions = Change - and what does he do?

      Gives trillions to Banksters, forces no pain or return to sanity, and they pay tens of billions $$$ in bonuses 5 months later. W! T! F!!!???

      Barack Obama, Democrat, he'll side with the unions = Change - and what does he do?

      Gives trillions to Banksters, forces no pain or return to sanity, and they pay tens of billions $$$ in bonuses 5 months later while he puts GM and Chrysler into Bankruptcy. W! T! F!!!???

      Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

      by k9disc on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 11:43:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The DLC was necessary back when the (0+ / 0-)

      Demorats were losing 40+ states in presidential races. The DLC and Clinton made the Democratic Party competitive in suburban America, where the majority of votes were being cast. After they reached their goal though--making the Democratic Party attractive to suburbanites again--they became irrelevant. Back in the late 1980s, though, they did play a necessary role.

      You are right in the respect that the Democrats don't stand up and defend their values the way that they should.

      •  No it wasn't. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dirtandiron, Kristina40

        It was very, very bad for the Democratic Party and the Country.

        They didn't win anything. They rented  power.

        The DLC sold out the very soul of the Democratic party in order to rent the White House.

        The DLC nearly killed the Democratic party. What significant Democratic policy did the DLC Democrats implement?

        Did they get the People anything? Protection from fraud? Clean energy budgets? Better pay? More vacation? Protection from usury? Good schools? Better access to medicine? Pension protection? Clean Food? Clean Elections? Access to medicine? Any union benefits? sustainable agriculture? Water protection? Infrastructure investment?

        Anything?

        If it were not for the absolute disaster that was Bush, Democrats would still be taking beatings at the ballot box.

        The DLC was the problem. They've been trying to co-opt Reagan. Reagan the Neoliberal Cheap Labor conservative and political marketing specialist.

        And guess what?

        The product they've been pushing has not been authentic.

        You can't be 'for the environment' and let the Big 3, now the tiny 2, and Oil Cartels write national Energy policy. Can't do it!

        You can't be for ensuring that All Americans get healthcare and then not support medicare for all, and sketch out on a Public Option when the Recently Routed Republicans say "Socialized Medicine!"

        You can't be for clean energy and stay silent on Mountain Top removal.

        The DLC is the reason the Party was on life support not the protector.

        Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

        by k9disc on Sat Aug 15, 2009 at 11:59:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No I disagree (0+ / 0-)

          Before 1992 the Democrats were routinely losing presidential elections by landslide margins. Say what you want about Gore and Kerry, who lost; but they didn't lose by 40+ state margins.

          •  Actually in 1992, Clinton only won a plurality. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Situational Lefty

            He was a fluke.

            He made a bunch of promises to the People and to Wall Street. He kept the promises to Wall Street. And the DLC was born.

            And then the Democrats continued to hemorrhage power from 1994 til 2004, when the DLC was resoundingly rebuked after the gutless Kerry Campaign.

            The DLC and their predecessors, 'neo-liberal' pointy headed Arm Chair Cold Warriors like Dukakis tried to hop on the neo-liberal bandwagon.

            Reagan beat Carter because he brought not only the show to the White House, he brought our body politic the modern day corporate Public Relations.

            And Republicans had tens of thousands of pointy headed conservatives think tanking away trying to figure out how to better propagandize sell the people.

            Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

            by k9disc on Sun Aug 16, 2009 at 12:12:30 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I have to challenge the argument that the (0+ / 0-)

              DLC cost the Democrats Congress. Three major factors cost the Democrats Congress in 1994. One was the 1990 redistricting that created minority-majority districts. Factor Two was the long-term realignemnt of the south to the GOP. Factor Three were the six Senate retirements. You also had the Clinton administration facing multiple programs.

              Reagan beat Carter because he brought not only the show to the White House, he brought our body politic the modern day corporate Public Relations.

              As for this point I blame the Democrats for not learning effective public relations.

              •  Whatever. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Situational Lefty

                You can challenge it.

                There are no facts in the matter. It's anecdotal.

                Democrats had been losing power for 20 years, since McGovern.

                Democrats really lost that LBJ spine at that time.

                They did learn Public Relations. It was Called the Clinton Administration.

                Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

                by k9disc on Sun Aug 16, 2009 at 12:20:20 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  And also... (0+ / 0-)

    If you want to get your marketing stuff together, you could hit the meme that the Prez and Congress are pushing - Health Insurance Reform.

    Health Insurance Companies are scumbags and we all hate them. Reform is a necessity.

    Health care is important to us and we are afraid to lose it. Reforming healthcare is scary.

    Totally different button being pushed, and it's an important button.

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Sun Aug 16, 2009 at 12:03:09 AM PDT

  •  Aren't the news-parade of right-wing think-tank (0+ / 0-)

    talking heads all stuck-up academics, not "attractive football players"?

  •  Point #2 is perfectly true in good times. (0+ / 0-)

    When the country really looks like it's circling the drain, voters find they really like nerds after all.

    Songs up at da web site! Also. . . It's Kostown, Jake. . .

    by Crashing Vor on Sun Aug 16, 2009 at 05:45:57 AM PDT

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