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It is all but inevitable that the Bush Tax cuts will be extended over the next two years. Much has been said about the President's failure to obtain a better deal, but not much has been said about our failure as progressives to aggressively pursue the tax deal we wanted.

I think it can be said that we failed to communicate the benefits of our version of the tax structure. We can say what we want about the President, but that we weren't willing to go all in on this debate is a testament to the problems facing both the progressive movement and the Democratic Party as a whole

And when I say we, I mean all of us. Sure, this is a failure at the elected level of the party, but we also failed by not doing what was necessary to stop these hostage takers from giving the richest Americans a king’s ransom in taxpayer dollars.

For example, the strongest progressive campaigns against these future destroying tax cuts are being run today are from Moveon.org and PCCC. These campaigns have five things in common:

  1. They focus more on the President fighting for something, than explaining why it’s a good idea to fight for it.
  1. They take pressure off the republicans, instead of forcing them to explain why the tax cuts are a good idea.
  1. They have become the standard ad style of the progressive sphere in regards to the issue.
  1. They don’t work.
  1. They weren’t targeted at anyone in particular.

So how could we have put the republicans on the defensive in the tax debate?

Well, for starters, we could have focused these ads on independent Americans. Why make an ad designed to lobby the President when the President probably will never see it and when he’s not the one you need to lobby with a commercial? You don’t.

Wouldn't a more rational communications strategy focused on building consensus for a progressive solution in the middle class by exploiting general populist anger at the countries’, undeservedly, ultra rich? Probably.

I’m not saying that we would have won definitively, but I’m tired of giving my money to these organizations just so they can mash up youtube clips into ineffective ads designed to persuade no one. How can we, or any of these organizations, claim to fight (or to teach liberals how to fight) when they absolutely refuse to directly challenge Republicans on the issues?

I hate to vent, but I don’t see the point of a strategy that doesn’t directly confront the GOP’s destructive ideas. When republicans attack democrats, they waste no time invoking other republicans. They know that every second of air time is precious and important to getting their message across. They also craft brilliant narratives, but that’s a different story.

The truth is that Americans don’t care about Progressives disagreeing with the President. They care about solutions. When the average American is watching an ad, you have a few seconds to grab them and to shape their opinion. Talking about the President fighting for an issue doesn’t address what they’re geared to look for in a a debate: an actual issue.

In fact, these ads shouldn’t even be aimed at liberals.

The day a progressive organization crafts an ad that can make Joe Sixpack in Bozeman, Montana think seriously about the progressive approach is the day that liberals will have learned what Republicans learned nearly 30 years ago, namely, how to sell an idea.

Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain has been talking about this deficit of salesmanship on the left for years. His book, though slow at times, should be required reading for anyone on the left seeking to influence voters. How would he have crafted the message for this debate?

  1. He would have taken the progressive idea to the average Joe, instead of focusing precious airtime on inner-party politics.
  1. He would have punched a billion holes in the Republican tax argument and he would have done it directly.
  1. This isn’t about what he would have done, but Progressives probably should have laid out the minimum that were willing to accept and the maximum desired outcome before the debate started.
  1. He would have played on our emotions: Our need to protect our children’s futures, anger over paying for the tax cuts of the wealthy, etc.
  1. He would have co-opted the GOP’s fiscally conservative credentials to engage our brains at the same time.
  1. And He would have told a story: There would have been a hero, a villain, a story arch, and a happy ending where American’s wouldn’t be forced to foot the bill for a tax cut that makes sure the wealthiest American’s get to send their kids to private school, while the poorest American’s can barely keep their public schools open five days a week.

What have we learned collectively about the importance of targeting and messaging in the Progressive movement by this blunder? Probably nothing, but I’ve learned that I should be wiser with how I give out my donations on ActBlue.

This doesn’t excuse the President for not coming, but I WON’T excuse the movement for failing to even try. At the end of the day, you know what's better than sticking it to President Obama? Winning.

What are your thoughts? Please share your opinion.

Originally posted to The Organizer on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 08:51 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."

    by The Organizer on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 08:51:58 PM PST

    •  personally (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Garrett, laker

      "I feel" like if we would have broke the tax breaks down to a weekly amount and run ads on that it would probably been worth the money...

      as in bottom bracket gets about 7 bucks a week out of the bush tax cuts... enough for a combo meal at mickey dees  etc... do it with each bracket and run the ad. people relate to MCDonalds's

      Reasons abound but reason has gone into hiding. - wargolem

      by wargolem on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 09:17:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mixing your message (0+ / 0-)

    when you say

    Instead of focusing precious airtime on party politics.

     He would have punched a billion holes in the Republican tax argument

    First you say, don't waste time on party politics, and then you immediately, in the same breath, turn around and make it a matter of party politics.  If you're trying to communicate a strategy here, it seems muddled at best.

    American business is about maximizing shareholder value. You basically don't want workers. ~Allen Sinai

    by ActivistGuy on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 08:57:25 PM PST

  •  Failed to communicate it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TracieLynn

    to whom?

    think it can be said that we failed to communicate the benefits of our version of the tax structure. We can say what we want about the President, but that we weren't willing to go all in on this debate

    If a tree falls in a forest, and all that

    Julian Assange revealed the identity of my Secret Santa.

    by eXtina on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 08:57:41 PM PST

    •  I don't know that a tree fell in a forest on this (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina, laker

      Kinda felt like I was watching the Detroit Lions play against the Patriots after getting their asses handed to them by the Eagles. Seemed like no one wanted to go through the motions so they settled. So maybe that is a tree falling and all that. Hmm.... well said.

    •  ...'Failed to communicate it to the rest of the (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Garrett, eXtina, moonpal, laker

      country" would be my answer.  A lot of the polling seems to dwell on a tendency by the MSM to report on an 'either/or' concept of "Tax Cuts For The Rich or No Tax Cuts For Anybody/Extension of Unemployment Benefits".  Recently it has seemed as though only casual lip service has been paid to the meaningful differences in tax cut proposals and there hasn't been any sort of bold hammer strokes being offered in the defense of the idea that the proposed tax cuts for the wealthy is an absurdity in this or any other time...

      A tree fell in this forest; all the furry woodland creatures heard it, but some of them have chosen to not describe what it sounded like to any of their other furry little friends who weren't right there at the moment...

      "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

      by Jack K on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 09:27:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Uber rich? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib

    The problem is that the tax cuts were hitting families who make $250k...that is NOT a lot of money.   If you talk about taxing people who make $1 million a year you might get traction on creating a class warfare argument of "uber" rich.   But $250k isn't that much money.

  •  Where are the jobs to pay for the tax cuts? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plembo
  •  Good diary. While I don't totally... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ItsSimpleSimon

    ...agree with what you've said, I think the second half of your diary, starting with "Wouldn't a more rational communications strategy..." is the best part and ought to be slightly expanded and turned into its own diary and posted at a more auspicious time. Say, late afternoon. That part is a theme that should be hammered frequently.

    Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Wed Dec 15, 2010 at 01:17:22 AM PST

  •  and where were (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    moonpal, Hopefruit2

    all the action diaries to call congress to vote on this before the election, when obama was way out in the lead on this issue.  crickets!  but now the situation is all obama's fault.

    Judging from picturebooks, apparently Heaven is a partly cloudy place. - Rilo Kiley

    by Cedwyn on Wed Dec 15, 2010 at 02:44:16 AM PST

    •  That's the question I've been asking (0+ / 0-)

      but have yet to receive an answer. Bernie Sanders spent over 8 hours making some very sound arguments against extending tax cuts for the richest, but I believe he would have been more effective had he done so before the midterms, or even before the senate took up the house bill on Dec 4th.

      As Lawrence O'Donnell indicated, Democrats in congress have traditionally been able to convince their fellow Dem senators/reps to vote for legislation where the President was unable to do so. Had I seen that kind of pushback from Dems in congress during the months of September, October and November, I would be more willing to stand with the progressive caucus in the party. But I feel as though they are simply grandstanding now to save face, knowing that they didn't do what they were supposed to do.

  •  An extension of the tax cuts became inevitable (0+ / 0-)

    the moment we lost the majority.

    The best way "progressives" could've helped avoid an extension of the tax cuts would've been to take their 24/7 firing guns OFF of the Democrats and focus them on the Republicans.

    "The future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be dead planet. . .I won't go back into the cave for anyone."

    by Whimsical on Wed Dec 15, 2010 at 05:41:46 AM PST

  •  New Populism (0+ / 0-)

    I think we need a new movement or new focus, where the aim is simply and exclusively to do something about Wall Street and income inequality. For me this is the most pressing issue facing America today. Kos is too all purpose progressive, so the issue gets buried by 100 other (admittedly very worthy) causes.  But today you see more and more outrage on Huffpo, etc.  What can be done to build and focus this energy?  

  •  Also read Lakoff (0+ / 0-)

    "The Political Brain" is good, and so is George Lakoff's analysis.  I thought his most recent article was on target.

    But I cannot help but wonder how we counter the massive funds of the right wing, particularly in light of the disastrous Citizens United decision?

    We don't own a cable/propaganda network.  We don't control the vast majority of political talk radio.  We don't have dozens upon dozens of propaganda ('think') tanks.  We don't have an effective counterpart to the Federalist Society.  And most of all, the Dems are not inclined to play the kind of scorched-earth hardball with which they are confronted.

    The Repugs have essentially ruined the Senate.  The Repug Senators are trying to run out the clock on court appointments and legislation, waiting until they are once again in positive control (getting what they want) rather than negative control (stopping what they do not want).

    This is class warfare and we are getting smashed.  We have to fight as if for our lives.  Because we really ARE fighting for our lives.

    •  technicalities (0+ / 0-)

      Apple as a smaller R&D budget than all it's competitors, but has good design and good marketing. The President's 2008 campaign was able to beat all these forces, and the PCCC and Moveon raise millions. And the DNC raised more money during the 2010 cycle. These seem like excuses to me, excuses that let Party and our Orgs off the hook for not being good at communicating to average Americans.

      •  Good points... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Organizer

        ...yes, we get some money and we can succeed at times.  But in the long run, it is very difficult to overcome the overwhelming financial and messaging advantages the right possesses.  Look at the combined audience of Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, and so on.  Look at how effective they, through orgs like the Federalist Society have been at grooming and promoting right wing judges.  

        Our side needs to be better at messaging, but I think the Dems in congress need to make up their mind that they are engaged in warfare.  I said back in 2008, when the Dems took control of the House, that they should have announced that they were going to continue under the DeLay rules.  

        If we cannot even stop tax cut extensions (at historically rather low rates at that, even if the cuts were allowed to expire) what can we do?  If we cannot stop assaults upon Social Security, what can we stop?

  •  Your poll options are slanted, ridiculous, and.. (0+ / 0-)

    .. insulting.

    But then, that was their intent, right? Not agreeing with you is exactly the same as "not reading the article."

    Piffle.

    Why do they only call it "class warfare" when we are fighting their unquenchable greed?

    by The Uncola on Wed Dec 15, 2010 at 07:18:44 AM PST

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