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I read the news today, oh boy.  Deficit going up, courts ignoring civil rights, republicans unfazed. Like many of you, the saddest thing for me is the capitulation of our party.  

And so, in an effort to pull myself out of this funk and possibly contribute something positive to the discussion, I'd like to make some observations on how we can better communicate our ideas to the disengaged.  There has been a lot of talk about how the democrats need to be stronger, but that is often hard when our positions are rhetorically weak.  Many have discussed framing our position in a positive manner and others have urged our leaders to simplify the message.  All of this is true but I would go one step further-- in order to win the political discourse in America, we have to speak in terms of Bad Things.

Rather than articulating problems that need to be solved, we should identify Bad Things that need to be eliminated.  By identifying Bad Things appropriately, it will be much harder for Republicans to oppose us.

We are living in a world where the complexity and information available on issues continues to skyrocket while, at the same time, the average voter has low or decreasing brainpower to deal with it.  Think about any current national issue-- healthcare, the budget deficit, climate change-- these are exceedingly complex issues with exceedingly complex solutions.  I am an educated person who spends several hours per week reading news but I don't understand the Healthcare Bill or what was in the budget compromise.  I only understand climate change because it is a personal interest of mine, but I still don't fully understand Cap-and-Trade legislation.  

In short, most voters don't understand the complexities of these issues and it is our job to explain it to them.  Obama does understand this, and he is good at explaining his position in a simple way.  What Obama is not good at is explaining the urgency of action or the evils of the "Conservative" position.

While we are all aware of the many losses that democrats have suffered in our quest to improve the general welfare, I would like to mention a victory that is quite dramatic and, I think can instruct us on how to proceed-- smoking.  

When I was a child, restaurants were just starting to designate non-smoking sections.  A kid could buy a pack from a vending machine.  People could smoke on airplanes. In high school, all students were allowed to smoke outside.  Four years later, at my first job, smoking was allowed in certain parts of the office.  The cigarette companies were still insisting that there was no proof that cigarettes caused cancer.

Now, cigarettes are banned nearly everywhere indoors.  Smokers must stand a certain distance from entrances if they choose to smoke.  Smoking is not allowed on airplanes in the US.  Companies are firing people who only smoke at home. A billion dollar lawsuit has led to really good anti-smoking advertisements.  Smoking is not gone (and it should never be completely banned) but it is much harder to smoke and it is much less socially acceptable.

Why such a dramatic change?  Certainly the answer is complex, as there are many moving parts.  The federal government passed the rule on airplanes; states (with some exceptions) banned smoking in restaurants.  Companies and their landlords banned smoking at work.  Plaintiffs and judges pushed the tobacco settlement along.

But even though there were multiple actors, they were all working toward the same goal for one reason-- second-hand smoke was seen as a Bad Thing.

Once second-hand smoke is seen as a Bad Thing, it is hard to argue that people should tolerate some smoke.  Cigarette companies were smart enough to know that they couldn't argue "second hand smoke isn't really bad," because they knew that the public has no sympathy for Bad Things. Governments, from the local to the national, had tools to stop this Bad Thing, and they used them, in the ways that they best knew how.  

At first glance, it may seem that most of society's major problems cannot be posed as simply as the problem of second-hand smoke.  Health care is complicated, climate change is complicated and so are their solutions.  But I think that with proper framing, these problems too can be framed as Bad Things.

Regarding health care reform, Bad Things were identified, but they weren't the right Bad Things. When describing the need for health care reform, the most common arguments were that people tend to get screwed over with our current healthcare system.  However, there are two problems with this strategy-- first, the problems described were suffered by someone else; second, without more information, it isn't obvious that government-run healthcare is the only solution to bad healthcare.  

Now consider the opposition to Obama's healthcare plan.  They attacked it head on.  For the Tea Party, government controlled health care was the Bad Thing. Such healthcare was framed in such a way that it directly harmed people (less benefits for you, even leading to "death panels"!).  More importantly, the only "solution" to government-controlled healthcare is less regulation and the free market.  In the end, Obama got a bill but the real winners were the healthcare industry.

So, how could we have done better?  Rather than frame the issue as people without healthcare, we could have made our message that the private healthcare industry is a Bad Thing.  The private healthcare industry is a Bad Thing because it will raise the price of your drug if it thinks it can make more money.  It will cease to cover your benefits if it thinks it can save more money.   Most importantly, the only solution to a private healthcare system is a public healthcare system.  Just like congress, the president, and the military hire physicians directly using public funds, so should everyone else.

Now certainly there would be huge opposition to this tactic.  Insurance companies would put all of their resources into opposing it.  But that would fit well into the narrative of insurance companies being a Bad Thing: insurance companies are bad because they take your money and spend it to ensure their continued lavish lifestyles.

There are those who did focus on the insurance companies-- Michael Moore and Dennis Kucinich were national figures and many here at DailyKos did so as well.  But in the end, Obama's support for the public option dealt a great rhetorical blow to healthcare reform.  By accepting the idea of a public option we're all accepting the idea that the private sector can do a good job of protecting people's health.  From that point it's a slippery slope to accepting the status quo.  Sure, some people can get good care from private insurance, but some people can be fine breathing in second hand smoke!  The problem is that in both cases we all suffer from greater risks to our health.

With any political movement, change doesn't come overnight, but the most successful incrementalism is the kind that never accepts the validity of its opponents positions.  Consider the animal rights movement.  Probably the greatest success of the animal rights movement in recent years is the reduced use of fur-based apparel. A major reason for this is its simplicity.  Compare "wearing fur is a Bad Thing" to "we need to treat farm animals more humanely." I know what fur is and I know what not wearing fur is.  I don't know what more humane treatment of animals means and I don't know how to affect it.  Similarly, within the arena of humane treatment of farm animals, animal rights organizations have been more successful at creating clear labels for things which are bad and fighting for those.  Animal rights groups got McDonalds to order its suppliers to phase out the de-beaking of chickens.  They also succeeded in passing California's Proposition 2, which gave many animals the small but significant right to move around in their cages.

Now let's consider climate change.  The last two democratic administrations have tried and failed to implement a cap-and-trade program for Carbon dioxide.  Simply stated, Cap-and-trade means that the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per emitter is capped, but that emitters who wish to emit more CO2 can pay other emitters to lower their emission levels.  

Economists and politicians love cap and trade. It makes sense-- cap and trade is a great way to ensure that emitters who produce the greatest societal benefit from their emissions are allowed to continue their important work while those who only benefit slightly from their emissions are given financial incentives to reduce their emissions.  It's a great idea in theory, but it is singing to the choir.  No one who doesn't already understand how it works is going to support it.  On the other hand, the opponents of cap-and-trade "took aim" (in one case quite literally) at increased government regulation, a damaged economy, and a whole host of demons that a thousand page climate bill probably had lurking within.  

Under Cap and trade every one is a good guy.  I suggest that only way to combat climate change is to identify the Bad Things that need to be fixed.  

From a strictly scientific standpoint, all fossil fuel consumption is a Bad Thing, as it adds carbon to our atmosphere.  Much like animal rights groups, we need to acknowledge that and make personal commitments to reduce our fossil fuel consumption.  At the same time, animal rights groups don't expect to convert everyone to vegetarianism overnight.  Rather, they identify the greatest cruelties and present them as Bad Things.

What are some bad things?  Well, the internal combustion engine is a bad thing.  Even electric cars powered by coal-fired power plants emit less CO2 than traditional gasoline engines.  Additionally, power plants are more highly regulated, especially the new power plants which will have to be built to support the increased electricity demand of electric cars.

There are other low hanging fruit.  Outdoor "sports" that emit tons of carbon dioxide (ATV's, powerboats, snowmobiles) are generally unnecessary, and they harm the environment.  These are Bad Things that could be simply and forcefully opposed.  SUVs and Trucks may be necessary to farmers or families with six children, but they are Bad Things which should not be easily obtained.  They are like smoking, they hurt everyone, and they're not necessary.

Ultimately, once electric vehicles become affordable, the internal combustion engine may start to seem very much like cigarettes.  Just like cigarettes, they are smelly, bad for your lungs, and should be kept away from children and people with asthma.  Other people's internal combustion engines cost you more money in increased air-conditioning bills, greater flood insurance, and increased risk of tropical disease.  At this point, there aren't many alternatives, but if we can get over the hump of affordability (maybe Tesla's Model S will be the start), we will have a huge opportunity to create a moral choice between electric vehicles and a Bad Thing.

But we need to think in terms of morality, not economics.

And, while we should recognize the imperfections of people and the practical difficulties of making changes, we can't be afraid to communicate the evil of certain situations in clear, unapologetic terms.

Updated by John Chapman at Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 08:45 PM MST

There appears to be a debate in the comments concerning the validity of regulations on second hand smoke.  Personally, I think that most of the new regulations are good ones.  However, I don't think that you have to hate smoking to realize how beneficial it can be to our cause when we can clearly identify social and environmental harms.  My point is that health care reform and cap-and-trade climate legislation failed to identify those harms and that those failures were a major part of why those legislative packages largely failed.

Originally posted to John Chapman on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 02:08 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  even simpler: Puritanism. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sneelock, Sychotic1, A Voice, native, Puddytat

    If you look at the history of tobacco, what you find is that long before it was considered a health risk, it was considered a sin.   Religious leaders inveighed against it as an idle pleasure, a seductive concession to the desires of the flesh along with dancing and drinking, and so on.  At various points in time, regimes tried to ban it under penalty of chopping off hands and chopping off heads.  

    Puritanism has been a disease of American culture since day one.  It also comes along with scapegoating of targeted groups, first witches, then other races, more recently gays and now Muslims are near or at the front of the list.  The sinful behaviors of the targeted groups are said to be the cause of many, most, or all of society's ills.  This is the doctrine of second-hand sin: that your neighbor's sin is corrupting your own way of life.    

    Puritanism backed by science backed by monetary justifications, becomes an unbeatable combination.  We saw it in the early responses to AIDS, which included serious proposals to quarantine gays in camps.  

    Smokers are an easy target, and the rest follows from there.  Minus the health risks, the battle to save souls from sin would be just a little harder.  

    So I suppose we could find ways to appeal to puritanism for some of these other items.  Driving a gas guzzler could be cast as another example of giving in to the sins of the flesh in the form of the desire for unneded luxury.  Etc.

    But I'd sooner see us make a frontal attack on puritanism, its doctrines of second-hand sin, and its fanatical desire for scapegoats.

    •  Way to Miss the Point of this Diary. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nominalize, John Chapman

      Look, I'm sorry if you have a beef with Puritanism but that was not at the root of the anti smoking movement or the acceptance of the idea of second hand smoke.   The significance of the shift to second hand smoke was to undercut the libertarian argument that smoking affected no one but the smoker.  It was a communitarian, not a Puritan, argument.  It had nothing to do with notions of "sin" and you can see that when you notice that the same people who are strongly against having to accept second hand smoke in their environment were also generally opposed to the prosecution of victimless crimes like gambling and prostitution.

      The connection between "liberal" attitudes towards sex, gambling, prostitution and the environment has actually forced the right wing to shift farther to the libertarian/right side of the aisle and emphasize not that smoking is "good for you" which was the original marketing strategy but that pissing other people off and polluting is "good for us all."  They use the same strategy when combatting all environmental initiatives and you can see that when you look at right wing responses to conservation which is to agressively use more of all goods and services in order to demonstrate that no conservation is required for (some) to lead a good life.


      •  Patterns are in the eye of the beholder. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Sorry, but we don't all have to see the same patterns.

        Second-hand sin is also a communitarian arguement: toleration of witches, gays, etc., and now Muslims, not to mention gambling, drinking, and masturbation, affects the entire community: by bringing down the disfavor and divine wrathful retribution of the Lord God Almighty.  Who can, according to fundamentalists, send forth storms, floods, plagues, etc., to smite the unrighteous, and cast souls into hell en masse.   Hell being described in the most concrete of terms as a place of eternal torture and torment.  

        So you betcha' it was a communitarian arguement.  Tolerating a sinner in a community could lead to the whole lot of 'em getting plunged into eternal fire that was as real to them as electricity is to us.  

        The root of the anti-smoking "movement" went back originally to the condemnations of various churches in Europe, though the occasional Middle Eastern monarch got into the act as well.  

        In the US, opposition to smoking was closely allied with Prohibitionism.  Is that the company you want to keep?  If you want to call it a "movement," that's what it looks like, with "health" replacing "Godliness" as its goal, but nonetheless attempting to demonize and control consenting adult behaviors right down to the level of what individuals do in their homes.  

        Proof positive:  Asthma rates have gone UP while smoking rates have gone DOWN, and yet "second-hand smoke" gets the blame while urban air pollution gets a pass.  

        So we could take that route and use all manner of Puritan arguements for progressive causes, but in the end we would be shooting ourselves in both feet by feeding more power to a cultural meme-set that has been perniciously evil since before the first witch it burned at the stake.  

        I have a horse in this race:  I'm gay and I've had to live through the threat of AIDS internment camps (HIV negative here but none the less), state constitutional amendments and federal laws passed to keep me a second class citizen, and a barrage of hate speech on radio and television equivalent to being black and living in the days when the N-word was used constantly.  

        Puritans and their modern equivalents are the enemy.  They have no place in the progressive universe.  

        We can find better ways to win our battles than to emulate our enemies.  

        •  Urban Air Pollution Shouldn't "Get a Pass" (0+ / 0-)

          And even though some of the anti-smoking fervor is motivated by puritanism that doesn't mean that a similar fervor can't be motivated for eliminating "non-sinful" goals.

          What I'm saying is that if you are concerned with urban air pollution you should properly assign blame on the cause-- the internal combustion engine (esp. diesel trucks).   Saying that semi-trucks in urban areas is a Bad Thing is, I think, more productive than saying we need a better plan to eliminate urban air pollution.

          And, to address one of your concerns, homophobia is also a very Bad Thing. See, it works whether you're a puritan or anti-puritanical.

          One man gathers what another man spills

          by John Chapman on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 08:48:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  the key to any of this is emotional narrative. (0+ / 0-)

            Mobilizing the public is all about telling a story: an emotional narrative that has some content associated with it.  

            Think of setting up a line-by-line listing like a script, with rows and columns.  In the left column, the emotions to portray/incite.  In the center column, the audio to use (voices, effects, music, whatever).  In the right column, the visuals: stage directions, acting, scenery, animation, effects, whatever.

            Now you can choose what emotions to stir up, and how to channel them into action.  

            On one hand we have to seize the moral high ground.  But on the other hand, doing so by using emotionalisms of the type used by Puritans and their neo-puritanical descendants, is treading on really risky ground because it reinforces the emotional narrative used by our enemies.  We can & should do better than that.

        •  To an extent, I can agree with you (0+ / 0-)

          but this statement, "attempting to demonize and control consenting adult behaviors right down to the level of what individuals do in their homes"  really gets right to it:  CONSENTING adults.  If I were consenting to breathe cigarette smoke, I'd take up the habit myself.  Why is my choice to avoid this substance less important than another's choice to both take it into their own body and release it into their surrounding atmosphere where it does indeed affect others?  I am very sensitive/allergic to cigarette smoke, besides that I don't want the increased risk from second-hand smoke.  I really get tired of people saying/thinking I can just "take some medicine" for it.  Well, no, not really.  Besides, if I have a cold and I'm coughing all over you, and you complain, would you like it if I just said "take some medicine"?  Maybe not the best analogy, but still I think it illustrates the point of having some consideration for others' health.  I know too many smokers who have the childish attitude of "I'm going to do it around you anyway just to piss you off."  Seriously?  

          Do (most) smokers get so self-defensive about this and THEIR freedom because they don't want to admit that their "freedom" is already limited by a drug habit that's controlling them?  

          I guess maybe people don't like the idea that if you can't "play nice" with others, you'll be forced to, and on the one hand, that's understandable too.  However, some of the same people support labor and product safety laws which essentially are doing the same thing.  Maybe it's the difference of corporate vs. personal behavior?

          Honestly, I do not see antismoking advocates giving other sources of air pollution a pass, but that is in my own experience.

    •  It's not just the Puritanism (0+ / 0-)

      It's also about people who feel the necessity to feel superior to others and self-righteous at the same time.  It was also about controlling others with a fanatical zealotry that's akin to evangelization in it's desire to not only control and dominate, but utterly destroy the target.

      What started out as reasonable and rational in creating "non smoking areas" moved more and more to irrationality.  We saw it move to "no smoking" on domestic flights of two hours or less move to "no smoking" on any domestic flights (and air quality on flights is actually worse than it was during the days of smoking since airlines don't filter and circulate the air as much any longer to save money).  We saw "no smoking" areas move to "no smoking" establishments and then to "no smoking" anywhere indoors.  Now, they're working on "no smoking" outdoors, too.

      I don't see these people involved in other "clean air" issues, either, which tells me that their goal isn't clean air, but control and domination.

      This is the same fanaticism that you see with the so-called "pro life" movement that began as an opposition to abortion to an all out war against contraception (for the same reasons, too - puritansm, self-righteousness, control, and complete domination).

      What's next?  The lunch police?  Sorry, you'll have to eat that BLT outside since nitrates cause cancer, consuming meat meat makes vegans upset, your white bread doesn't contain fiber so the dieticians are unhappy, and mayonnaise contains saturated fat which increases your risk of heart disease, and on and on.....

      Can't we just leave each other alone?

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 01:36:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My theory on secondhand smoke (4+ / 0-)

    Is that all the kids like me who suffered in those smoking sections on airplanes, in restaurants, and had the grandparents smoking in the car grew up and were still pretty pissed off.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 11:23:47 PM PDT

    •  true dat (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      easong, Puddytat

      i remember my mom smoking in the car with the windows rolled up.

      she would get angry if I rolled the window down.  especially in the winter!

      no concept then that secondhand smoke was harmful to me.

      but she figured she did her part by quitting smoking while she was pregnant.  I am extremely grateful for that, and grateful to her doctor (whom i otherwise did not like) for advising her that way, since not many people knew that smoking was bad for pregnant women back in the 50s.

      i think there is a scene in Mad Men with a pregnant woman smoking and children playing with a dry cleaning bag.  The mother is upset that the children might get the dry cleaning dirty, but she has no concept of "this bag is not a toy"

      "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
      I support Bob Massie for MA-Sen

      by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 05:22:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  People Got Pissed (3+ / 0-)

    I was not afraid to tell someone that their smoke bothered me. I have asthma and I am so sensitive to cigarette smoke I can smell it if the car in front of me has a smoker with the window rolled down.

    I guess you could call it the "Wisconsin way" since we started by organizing. The first place we affected change were cities. We got them to ban smoking in restaurants. Later we got it at the state level and on the federal level on air flights.

    We need people to show people a clear path to doing something and making things better.

    The daily floggings will continue until morale improves.

    by Tuba Les on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 03:25:28 AM PDT

    •  I had childhood asthma too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Voice

      and my mom still smoked around me in enclosed spaces.

      maybe that was one reason I preferred my beloved grandmother's company as a young child--she did not smoke.

      but my beloved grandfather smoked a pipe and I still love the aroma of pipe smoke.  so go figure.

      "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
      I support Bob Massie for MA-Sen

      by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 05:25:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  we did not let Washington lead the way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      John Chapman

      We got out and made the change ourselves.

    •  I'm allergic to strong fragrances (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tuba Les

      and hair spray as many people are.  I wheeze terribly when I'm near with someone who has "overdone" their use of those products or has a bouquet of flowers (just horrible in elevators).  Ditto chlorine bleach (can't go near a public pool).

      Would you join me in banning bleach, hair spray, perfume, cologne and after shave?

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 01:44:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm also very sensitive to pretty much all man- (0+ / 0-)

        made fragrances, though I do okay with most natural ones.  I notice even "masking scent" in so-called unscented products.  (and what is in their product that smells so bad they need to mask it, anyway?)

        The problem here is two-fold:  the fragrance industry is totally unregulated and nobody except the companies making the stuff know what's really in them.  It's estimated that there are hundreds and maybe thousands of different chemicals in fragrances and the odds are good that a lot of them aren't the greatest for human health.  So, maybe first of all try to get some regulation on the industry.  Good luck in the current legislative climate, I know...

        Secondly, because of all the strong fake stink that's put in every personal and household product these days, a lot of Americans have a subnormal sense of smell.  (If only I did.  That's the insult to injury with the sensitivity.)  That's one reason people use so much.  Plus, the industry's reaction to that is...make the stink even stronger, perputuating the cycle.  So, in addition to regulating what's in it, regulate how much can be in a product.    

        Trying to change people's actions on this issue is hard to do because people take it like it's a personal insult if you have a reaction to their product and you try to have a conversation with them about using less--been there, done that.  And I do try to politely explain and ask if they could possibly use less;  I don't rage and demand that they cease all use immediately (though there is a part of me that would love to).  Had one woman use even MORE til people in the office who weren't sensitive were getting headaches, too.  (again, how totally childish!)

        Some offices do have policies against people using a lot of scent, which I personally think is a good thing.  Why do you need all that, at work?  Who are you trying to pick up?  Or are you trying to hide that you only bathe once a week? (seriously, had a boss who did that.  yuck!!!!)

        If you can, switch to natural and organic products and make the changes with your wallet.  That doesn't save you from other people's scents, but maybe it would show that a significant number of people don't want all that gunk in their products.

        •  The last part was actually snark (0+ / 0-)

          The first part very true.  The last thing I want to do is become one of those controlling, domineering jerks that go all apeshit over what someone else does.  As a rational person, I put up with it as we all have to do when we live in a community.

          We get offended by lots of things like the intrusive co-worker, nosy neighbor, boistrous person in a quiet restaurant, people who drink too much alcohol, etc.  It's when we put so much time into efforts to legislate those things that offend us that we have lost the sense that communities are made up of different people who do different things.  The sense of feeling entitled to be surrounded only by people we agree with who do only what we want or allow them to do is what I find really offensive.

          I won't take away someones freedom to be who they are and live their lives the way they want to regardless of how I feel about it.  If someone can't deal with that, maybe they should live in a cave where they can make things just the way they like them and not put up with the reality of being with other people.

          There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

          by Puddytat on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 10:35:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I agree with the sentiment to a point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy, Puddytat

    I see the whole second hand smoke issue to be a smoke-screen in many cases. It helps us think it is the only problem in the air and once we have fixed that, we can breath easy.  Indoor air in most cases, even without cigarette smoke, is more polluted than out-door air these days.  Unless you are sitting in traffic.  Most people don't realize the carcinogens in carpet for instance, being made air-borne by traffic across it.  And if you are "air conditioned" the mold spores will be everywhere if you don't spray them with poison.  And then there are the cleaning agents that you shouldn't inhale.  And the insecticide that you shouldn't spray on food but are "ok" to breath.  The list goes on and on.  Careful around that printer in the office.

    (Don't worry, you won't be getting any second-hand smoke from me.  I smoke an e-cigarette.)

    But to the point.  Defining bad things will only help if people want to be good.  I have known many people in my life who did things because they were bad.

    Nice guys finish last. Nice guys shouldn't race.

    by A Voice on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 05:56:59 AM PDT

    •  most > many (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That's how we win in a democracy.  So what if some people wanna be bad--- most people want to be good.  Or at least seen that way.

      By putting laws into effect, with effective punishments, we reduce the incentive to be bad just for being bad.

    •  That's kinda like the law of unintended (0+ / 0-)

      consequences - e.g., antibiotics save some lives, but contribute to a whole lot of us being obese (which ultimately will probably kill more of us than were saved by the antibiotics in the first place . . . .).

  •  One of the Best Diaries I've Read in a Long Time. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ahumbleopinion, ManhattanMan

    This is just one of the best diaries I've read in a long, long, long time and it perfectly encapsulates both our current problem, and our current solution.  It dovetails very well with BrooklynBadBoy's recent very good front page diary about going to see President Obama and realizing that, for all the good he has done, he has shrunken into the role of President instead of grown in it to become the inspirational, transformative leader we had hoped.

    To my mind the central problem of this upcoming campaign is how to engage voters--both old voters and new--with the enthusiasm to fight for both the White House and the Congress when the President and his party consistently fail, whether through policy or ineptitude, to point out what the Republican party is actually doing: that is, that its a Bad Thing and its policies are unconsionable and immoral.

    There's a touching story going around about how, at the eleventh hour, President Obama faced down Boehner with "Zero, John" meaning you don't get to defund PP.  That's very nice and laconic and John Wayney and I guess if you were there it would look really powerful. But look at the ways in which the Dems handled the whole issue before and after, referring discreetly to "social issues" and "ideology" and waffling on and on about process and trying to keep the bill clean.  If I'd been Obama and Biden I'd have come out on the steps of the White House with Boehner and blasted him out of his socks with the list of past Republican Presidents who had supported and funded PP and with a pie chart showing that only 3 percent of the funding goes to abortion and I'd have said a whole truckload more than "Zero, John" I'd have said "I love my wife, and my children, and I extend the same love to all the women and children in this country who through no fault of their own can't get access to private health insurance, or what they need to protect themselves from breast cancer and cervical cancer. Why do the Republicans hate them and want to see them die? Access to health care denied is health denied. Instead of looking at ways to cut people off and let them die lets all look for ways to strengthen health care delivery in this country. Shame on you!"

    Obama and the Dems, but failing them the average voter, has to start stepping up and making as big a fuss about the immorality of the Republican project as they have made about the immorality of our project. Its the only way.


  •  Well said. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kat herder, nylibgrrl

    When your party cannot sell a position that most Americans support, something is seriously wrong with the messaging.  Since leadership seems be be incapable or unwilling to improve, it is up to activist groups to get it done and I think you are on the right track. Keep it simple, keep it personal, repeat often.

    "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Maya Angelou

    by ahumbleopinion on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 06:28:01 AM PDT

  •  you can not call capitalism a good thing (0+ / 0-)

    and then call insurance a bad thing. There is lies the problem. Too simple a message really doesn't work.

    That would like calling cigarette smoke bad, but pipe smoke good.

    fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

    by mollyd on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 06:34:18 AM PDT

    •  I think you can make a distinction (0+ / 0-)

      If someone wants to sell a ticket to a Justin Bieber (sp?) concert for $1,000, and someone will buy it, that's Captialism, and that, I think, is good.  The pure unadulterated capitalism of identifying a trend and taking advantage of it is a good thing.  It's why that woman who stayed in Flint after GM left was able to provide for her family by selling rabbits ("for pets or meat").  Allowing people to start businesses without approval from the government is a great thing for many people.  

      But I think we can distinguish (as we do in other areas) a capitalistic entertainment industry from a capitalistic army (i.e. Blackwater), a capitalistic health insurance industry, or a capitalistic government (i.e. Bush II).  

      In fact, I can imagine a healthcare system that is largely capitalistic and not destructive of helathcare.  That doesn't mean that the healthcare industry isn't a Bad Thing, it just means that if we are engaged by an intelligent debater (such as yourself) we can discuss the finer details with them.

      One man gathers what another man spills

      by John Chapman on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 09:07:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Frame: Pollution=Cancer=Scary=Votes (3+ / 0-)

    We need to get concrete, personal and visceral.  

    Terms like "environment" and "climate" are abstractions; they are too large and too complex to wrap your head around.  And the traditionally publicized areas of environmental damage are not very personal to the mass media audience:  most of its members have never been to the ice caps or the rain forests.

    Disease is personal.  And nothing is as visceral as the instinct to protect your children.

    Upton Sinclair, commenting on the his pro-socialist The Jungle, with its accurate and horrifying descriptions of the meat industry in the early 20th century (which led to the eventual creation of the FDA), said "I aimed for the nation's heart, and hit it in the stomach"

    Still not a bad shot.  We need to go for the gut now.

    We need to talk about cancer, heart disease, lung disease, birth defects and other terrifying threats.  We need to make them the center of the enviromental debate.  And we need to call out the polluters who are causing them and the flunkies who are letting them get away with it. Shame is an incredible motivator, at least for elected officials.

    These issues gain traction across the ideological spectrum:  conservatives may not care too much about the Arctic Refuge, but they do care deeply about their own kids.  And it is no stretch to get those interersted in the rights of the unborn to worry about poisons in the womb.

    This is the emotional appeal we need, and it will work to protect both our children and our world.

    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

    by TheGrandWazoo on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 06:42:15 AM PDT

  •  morals drive us (0+ / 0-)

    I think this diary hits the important point spot on --- morals drive what we do, and this becomes clear when we consider what a government actually does.

    Government does not act for the fun of it.  Government repairs specific market failures to do what is right or what is necessary.   Like second-hand smoke--- once we saw it as wrong, we saw that the market failed to prevent it.  So governments near and far have stepped in to fix the market's failure.

    Enforcing 'what is right' requires imposition of moral values.  This might make us squeamish, but it shouldn't:  When we advocate any government program, we are advocating the imposition of moral values.  Of course, when conservatives advocate their programs, or try to dismantle ours, they are imposing as well.  The point of democracy is to ensure that the morals imposed by the government represent the society's consensus as best as possible.

  •  Identifying "Bad Things" Is Good Marketing :) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kat herder

    And I think you're really onto something here.  Instead of gnashing our teeth because the party and campaigns "are lousy at messaging", we provide the message. We make it powerful.  We popularize it.   Then the politicians and the party will pick it up.  

    It's much of what the Republicans do.   It's why arguing against their memes is so tough - no one wants to be for a Bad Thing.

    I'm going to wander off and think about this now.  Who knows, maybe I'll even write my second diary ever.  (that'd be a shocker, but it could happen!)

    Sure, I follow, but I do it independently.

    by The Independent Sheep on Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 07:29:05 AM PDT

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