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In 2000 I voted for Gore.  I was still in NY, so there was no danger of him losing, but G.W. Bush scared me.  I SCREAMED at the TV when the supreme court verdict was read.  And I screamed at my fellow citizens for being taken in by that dumb redneck.  

When I tried to figure out what had happened, I saw for the first time one of the key differences between republicans and democrats; the republicans were very good at the soundbite, and that fit the average american's attention span.

This makes me sad.  So much of republican thought can be drilled down to "us vs. them" or "do this one thing and everything will be fixed".  The ideas appeal to our lazy brains.  (See this article that talks about a recent study showing that when little effort is put into thinking about an issue, the result is usually a conservative opinion.)  The ideas also appeal to our bigoted instincts and our greed/selfishness.

In contrast, ...

An awful lot of democratic ideas have this silent "Yes, but ... " at the beginning of them.  It's hard to argue with "I will lower taxes" (which is a great sound bite) by saying "But what services will you cut?" (which is a crummy sound bite).  Worse, the soundbite answer is "Waste", something nearly everyone who has stood in line at the DMV can come up with an example of.  

Notice something else, however.  This exchange puts the democrats on the defensive, trying to point out the flaws in the other guys plan as opposed to presenting their own.

When they DO try to present their own ideas, they rarely have the immediacy of the republican ideas.  A republican says "I will lower taxes" and what the average american hears is "I will put more money in your pocket now".  When a democrat says "I will fix schools" what the average person hears is "This is going to take money out of my pocket now for something that may never benefit me or will only do so in a decade or two."

In some ways, the republicans are better at soundbites because they appeal to the basest of human instincts; greed.  "Make things better for me right now, regardless of the future or the impact on anyone else."  Democrats look to the future and the effect of a policy on everyone, and that makes things complicated.  Complicated takes time to explain, and takes thought to understand.  That's a hard task in a world of soundbites and apathy.

This has little to do specifically with Arizona and EVERYTHING to do with what we will witness between now and November.  Have the dems learned nothing from past defeats?

Originally posted to protoscholar on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 11:39 AM PDT.

Also republished by Political Language and Messaging.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Too true. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, defluxion10

    I think it's because progressives tend to treat issues as complex, they have a hard time reducing such complexity to simpler elements, or rephrasing them to be more appealing.

    One instance: re the Buffet Rule, Democrats could have stopped talkign about raising taxes (which everyone shies away from these days), and instead said "we want the very rich to invest more in America!" They should be investing more in America; they're getting the most out of it!

    The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

    by TheOrchid on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 11:58:00 AM PDT

  •  Remember the Right Has Corporate Thinktanks (3+ / 0-)

    creating and testing messaging which is distributed every day to all the conservative pols, candidates and pundits.

    The Democrats by contrast are human beings almost completely on their own to come up with things to say.

    Then there's the complication of how many Democrats are willing to make strong policy statements at all.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 12:01:43 PM PDT

    •  That is a really good point.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl

      Think tanks have drastically changed how politics is discussed, and often control the message more than the politicians.  

      There is a group out of Colorado who tries to debunk think tank research on education.  But the think tank releases a nice, snappy press release and the review group releases a paper on why the think tank was incorrect around 2 weeks later.  Then they wonder why they don't get quite the airtime of the original group.

  •  They Dumb It Down To The Lowest Common Denominator (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marie, defluxion10, protoscholar

    Three word phrases are their forte.....Drill Baby Drill, No More Taxes, Support the troops, Governments Too Big.....God, Guns & Gays.

    Nothing complex, no nuance.  They want their people to chant not examine.  If they do examine, Republicans will lose.  And they know it.  

  •  "Fairness" and "equity" are higher (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    defluxion10, FG, kiri

    order mental concepts than "fear" and "greed."  Hence Republican messaging always begins with an advantage over that of the New Deal Democrats.  Of course FDR's team was rather brilliant at wiping out that inherent GOP advantage and selling the higher order concepts.  They did one other thing as well, they fucking delivered.  

  •  How's this "Greed Kills","Mammon the New Jesus" (0+ / 0-)

    "Republican Women less pay,more work","Monthly Bills are Taxes","Men the Republican Party demands no sex before marrage,have fun with your Guns.","Republican Men Paternity Test are Cheap now","Guns are not Pro-life","Bombs,Tanks and ICBMs are Weapons of Mass Abortion".

  •  The Suckage of Fear (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alice kleeman, Scott Campbell

    Democrats suck at soundbite because they are afraid of sounding extreme. The problem is these days even the truth sounds extreme, so the Dems end up sounding like polite weasels.

    On Sunday morning I'd love to hear:

    "Corporations are not people, and anyone who says they are is either a shill for the corporations, a victim of corporate propaganda, a nut, or an idiot"

    "Taxes are the price of admission to a civil society. If you don't want to pay them, you should get the hell out."

    "The richer you are, the more you rely public funding. Without it your rich ass wouldn't be able to feel safe anywhere."

    "The Tea Party is an artificial creation used to whip up fear."

    "Everytime you drive a car you are making the world a little worse, and somebody who doesn't give a damn a little richer."

    "My Republican colleague is neither distinguished nor honorable. He is a Corporate mouthpiece of stupidity and hatred."

    "You say you support the Police. Well, the police want tighter gun laws. Are you a liar or a hypocrite?"

    "If you're so patriotic why didn't you ever serve in a combat zone?"

    "Are you glad the Union won the Civil War or not?"

    Oh, I could go on, but what it comes down to is the Dems are also a corporate party, torn between needing Wall Street money and wanting votes. They play at Progressivism to get the second, but not so much to endanger the first. They are afraid of being offensive - literally and figuratively - because it might cost them the support of the very organizations their constituents are fighting against. They hide behind being thoughtful, but really they are just scared of being called Commies, and being bumped from the gravy train.

    "Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices." Voltaire

    by Michael Gene Sullivan on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 03:07:38 PM PDT

    •  Why should thoughtful be a bad thing? (0+ / 0-)

      It just kills me that the thoughtfulness and unwillingness to call republican ideas racist and fascist to their face is considered a weakness.  Calling names is not a strength.  

      Or am I giving the american public too much credit?  Maybe the problem, in truth, is that the average american is more interested in and intellectually on par with Snooki.  

      •  "Freedom is the freedom to say 2 + 2 = 4." (0+ / 0-)

        Fear to name them for what they are is not strength, or thoughtful, or even a good tactic. If someone acts like a racist, talks like a racist, and endorses racist policies but is not called a racist what is lost is the truth. Part of the problem is also that people now see decided that the terms "racist" or "reactionary" are so insulting that to use them is rude. It's not calling someone names if it's true; it's just recognizing reality. To do otherwise is to drive yourself crazy.

        Thoughtfulness should never preclude truthfulness. Great men and women embody both. When WWI hero Smedley Butler said the armed forces were becoming the "gangsters of Capitalism" he wasn't calling names, he was telling the truth from his deep experience. Now some probably jumped up and said he shouldn't have said that, or that any other of the men and women who we profess admiration for should have never spoken truth to the faces of power, but I think those people should reassess what they want, change, or a dinner party.

        "Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices." Voltaire

        by Michael Gene Sullivan on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 04:19:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  They get bogged down in details. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And try to give fair arguments, actually stating the other side, rather than misstating it.

    If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

    by Bush Bites on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 05:24:50 PM PDT

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