"... to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent . . ."
-- Thomas Jefferson
A lot of folks are looking for the "issues" that will beat the Republicans, including me. As I go through that exercise, though, I have realized that issues are only a small part of the reason I vote for, support or actively support a candidate for office. I'm looking for something more, even something else. A winning message for my attention starts with reform, change, an understanding that the system is broken and it is the obligation of citizens to fix it. It will be a message that government is ultimately not "them" but "us", and we must take the responsibility for its success or failure. A campaign will rise or fall on whether we can convince the residents to be come voters, and the voters to become active participants in their community and governance.
That campaign will, to paraphrase John F. Kennedy, be not just a set of promises, but a set of challenges.
In his inaugural address, President Kennedy set out the basis of community: Participation and Cooperation. "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country": Participation. "Ask not what American can do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man": Cooperation. What he challenged us to do on a national and world level we must do on a district, county and state level.
This is a direct challenge to the overriding Republican message, which is about self and selfishness. They talk less about "We the People" than me the person. Instead of working to make the community we all live in better for all of us, they promote policies that benefit the individual over the community, and one in which the individual has the most benefits the most.
This plays to the limited attention spans most people are willing to dedicate to politics, and we need to take that limited attention span into account. But Americans do like to feel part of a community. I think a great deal of the "religiosity" of this nation comes more from the community of a church than its message. We need to communicate that sense of community across the polity of our town, county, state and nation.