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The Republican Party has a theme for 2014. We saw it in Bill O’Reilly’s prosecution of President Obama in the form of an interview during the recent Super Bowl. The Republican 2014 election theme is: Attack Democrats on the Affordable Care Act, Benghazi and the I.R.S.

The GOP is smart to have a 2014 election theme, and a simple theme with no more than three items to boot. Such a strategy worked for Republicans in the 1988 Presidential election, when George Bush focused on Willie Horton, Boston Harbor and the Pledge of Allegiance to beat Michael Dukakis for the Presidency. The three-element theme also worked for Democrats in 1992, when Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville distilled Clinton's campaign theme into what Carville’s colleague George Stephanopoulos called a "haiku" to beat Bush:

Change versus more of the same
It’s the economy, stupid
Don’t forget health care
Right now, we’re seeing a lot of appeals by the Democratic Party, asking us for money. The appeals go something like, “The Koch Brothers are dumping millions into _ election in __. Send us $3 (or $16, or $25) right away to fight back.” But those appeals rarely say specifically what the money would be used for, and how it would help translate to votes this November. Likewise, pundits and analysts say that, if the Democrats can mobilize their base to come out and vote in 2014, they will have a fighting chance in the election. That’s obviously true, but it begs the question of how the Democratic Party can motivate its base and others to get off their butts and vote for Democratic candidates this November, to avoid another debacle like the 2010 elections.

Part of the answer is that Democrats need a positive, unifying theme in order to motivate voters to get out and vote for them in 2014. Here’s an example of a simple theme that the Democrats could use:

“We Have Your Back”
This theme would work on virtually every issue (jobs, voter i.d. laws, income inequality, rebuilding America’s infrastructure, marriage equality, etc.), and can be used to point out that the Republicans specifically don’t have your back. For example:

Healthcare: President Obama and the Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act, which has already helped 12 million Americans and counting. The Republicans? Now they’re fighting to take away your health care.

Climate change: Democrats are leading the way to fight climate change by regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, increasing vehicle fuel mileage standards and promoting clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar. The Republican Party fights all of these efforts in order to protect Big Oil and Big Coal.

Women’s health: Democrats promote women’s health by passing the Affordable Care Act which covers preventive services like cervical cancer screenings, and fighting to let women make health choices with their doctor and their family. The Republicans’ idea of women’s health is to let religious zealots in the Tea Party dictate what millions of American women can do with their bodies, and to wage a War On Women.

Admittedly, there are some issues where Democrats and Progressives feel that President Obama and the Democratic Party leaders don’t always have our back. For example, President Obama’s dithering on the dirty Keystone XL pipeline raises questions about Obama’s commitment to fight climate change and to wean us off of fossil fuels. Likewise, President Obama’s pursuit of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in secret, without Americans’ input via a full and open debate by our representatives in Congress, is severely misguided, and leading Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi thankfully have come out against so-called "fast track" treatment for the TPP. Nevertheless, between the Democrats and the Republicans, you know that it’s not even close. Most of the time, Democrats have your back, and Republicans are serving the interests of their corporate overlords and the Tea Party lunatic fringe.

Whether it’s “We Have Your Back” or something else, the sooner the Democratic Party turns its ideas and values into a positive unifying theme to get Democrats out to vote in 2014, the better.

Photo by Georg Holzer, used under Creative Commons license.

[Originally posted at Messaging Matters. Copyright 2014 -- All rights reserved.]

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