November 3, 2010

Serious question

I hear the mantra from the left (and some from the middle) that Obama and the Democrats have done a bad job of communicating their accomplishments. I wonder about that, simply because I am unsure how that is supposed to work. Do any of us listen to politicians when they make their pitch? Has anyone ever listened to a presidential radio address?

Seems to me that we have several problems. 1) We are fighting against people who use propaganda shamelessly. How do you counter Glenn Beck? 2) We have a shortage of simplistic slogans. How do you explain complexity in the fact of "socialized medicine" or "death panels?" 3) We have a paradox of success. Republicans can rail against unseen and phantom ills. "Look out, a Mooslim might be behind that bush," while Democrats are supposed to take credit for subtle successes like ridding the country of pre-existing conditions or lifetime caps. If you, or your family don't have a pre-existing condition and have never had a serious illness, why do you care? Besides being a human, that is.

And ultimately, Republicans can appeal to people's baser instincts. Fear those people, and we will cut your taxes and stop lazy people from getting your money. Democrats are tasked with asking people to invest in things--things that they personally may not profit from. I think we can do it, but I am not sure how when Republicans are the way they are.


Smitty said...

First, a blog-whoring moment: come check out ATK for a Michigan-specific post-election analysis. A teaser: Dems, who had a 67-43 clutch on the Michigan House, lost it to the Republicans last night. The whole House. 63-47 R.

On the national level, it was absolutely about not bragging on success. It is hard to cheer about subtleties when your opposition is screaming "Underpants Bombs and Mooslim Preznits!" But you have to say something dammit. And by saying nothing until Republicans said something, Dems were forced to play defense for the last 2 years.

Add to that self-defeating Dems who did't show up...I mean for Christ's sake, less than 50% of registered Dems actually went to the polls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula!

Ken Summerlin said...

I think Jon Stewart was correct when he said, "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing." Anthony Weiner yells, John Boehner yells and all we hear is noise.

Republicans dismissed virtually every attempt at compromise offered by Democrats in the past 2 years. The consequence is that the country got weaker legislation than it should have and gained virtually no bipartisan support.

I don't know what the answer is but I cringe to think what the next 2 years will be like in Washington and I regret that most of the congressional delegation from my state will be part of the problem.

Streak said...

Ken, I think you are right about the shouting, but I sure see more on the right than on the left.

Smitty, perhaps I am dense, but I would like some sense of how that would look. Obama talked about his accomplishments and did a lot of talking about how healthcare would help people. When some of the new provisions went into place, he talked about that.

How would it look for Democrats to talk about this in a way that might help? I completely agree with the self-defeating part, but how could the DNC and Obama do better?

Streak said...

BTw, Ken, it dawns on me that my comment was in the vein of "they do it more," where your comment was just that the shouting is harmful.

I think the problem for many progressives can be summed up by the response to the MOveOn woman's response to the head stomper. Some believe, and I am more and more one of them, that conciliation from the left is taken as weakness by the right. When we try to do the right thing and not shout, we get stepped on. Others, obviously, disagree. I am hoping we can find a solution of some sort.

Bob said...

"I think Jon Stewart was correct when he said, 'If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.'"

I totally agree with this. Since the Repubs had a generic partisan lead, they could just create noise and drown out the message. When there is totally noise and confusion, voters will fall back on party ID, handing it to the R's.

The Citizen's United case sure helped fund the noise.

steves said...

First of all, it doesn't seem that Citizen's United changed the tone of this election at all. There were just as many of those kinds of ads as in the past.

I don't think shouting is the answer. I also don't think that Glenn Beck has that wide of an audience. Roger Ebert had a piece on, IIRC, on one of the big right-wing pundits (it may have been Limbaugh) and pointed out that his audience was not really all that big.

Obama did talk about some of his stuff, but I have a hard time recalling what he did say. As I mentioned in another post, he did a lot to overhaul to social security disability system and speed up the porcess. It was probably the biggest overhaul in at least 30 years. He didn't say anything about it. The only place I heard about it was on a Social Security lawyer blog and it referenced a speech that was given at one of the conventions.

The majority of this country is moderate and not interested in shouting or ranting. These are the same people that flocked to Obama in the previous election. They are still out there.

Smitty said...


2 years ago, the Dems in the Michigan House went from slight minority to massive majority. Granted, a lot of pundits love to say that "the Obama wave" helped some members get in to the MI legislature . That is probably part-true in some heavily Republican-leaning districts that elected a Dem. And last night, a lot of those Dems lost (in heavily Republican districts).
But the other thing that helped was Dem communications. Every single damn day, there was a presser on the same three things: 1) what great piece of legislation they just passed and why it's great; 2) what great pieces of legislation are still out there being stymied by the opposition party; and 3) why the opposition party threatens to change your way of life.

Every day Dems were in the news. The Lansing media, editorial boards across the state, and Michigan's tv and radio pundit shows, Dems brought that same framework. All that changed was content. The papers couldn't help but pick up those stories because that's what they were fed.

Shit, the idiot "Canadian Trash" issue was HUGE! Every Dem across the state glommed onto this message (and keep in mind they weren't the minority party!). Canada is shipping their trash...THEIR GARBAGE...over the border and into our landfills. And sometimes they cause accidents. Dems beat that lame-assed drum every single day for a YEAR...and guess what? It polled HUGE, just the promise of stopping fucking trash trucks.

The primary complaint among PR firms in Lansing these past few months was that Dems never talked about their successes and how the opposition threatens those successes. There is a side discussion here about traditional Dem groups not being in love with House Dem "success" but there was some stuff out there that they were rpoud of. But that's another comment string...

Dems, in DC and somewhat in Lansing, either ran from success or never mentioned it. Imagine if our PR machine ground out daily "did you know that the stimulus was 42% tax cuts? Brought to you by me, your friendly Dem congressman!" Sure, you have to contend with FOX, but you've got CNN, MSNBC and the 27 million listener-per-day NPR that will take your news not because it's Dem but because you say it every damn day.

If the Canadian Trash model of PR can work for Michigan Dems, then the tax-cuts-in-stimulus and kids-cant-be-denied-care-in-health-overhaul can work if they'd have taken the time to message this stuff instead of passingitreallyfastandmoveonsothebadguyscantcomplain model.

Hopefully, that starts to answer your question.

Streak said...

Ok, I am not convinced at all that Citizens United didn't make an impact. NPR had a lot of stuff on groups that were flooding the airwaves with no idea where the money came from. Or perhaps that has nothing to do with that ruling.

Smitty, I am nominating you to work for the Obama administration. I think I am starting to understand how they might do better.

Perhaps you should write a letter to the White House. By hand, and no swearing. :)

Smitty said...

Smitty, I am nominating you to work for the Obama administration.and no swearing

Im-fucking-possible. I'm a shorter, drunker Rahm.

Monk-in-Training said...

Smitty! Surely your charm is more effusive that Mr. Rahm's...

steves said...

Similar myteriously funded 401's flooded the airwaves in the last election. The tone of the ads was the same this time and I didn't see much of a difference, in terms of BS and idiocy, in content.

Smitty, you raise some good points, but I think the Dems would have lost even if they were able to get their message out. The economy in this state sucks, or at least is perceived to be really bad. It was starting to look bad 4 years ago and people were willing to let Granholm, in her words, "blow us away." I think people tend to be too quick to assign both blame and praise to the gov't when the economy is good or bad. Fair or unfair, the Dems were going to lose this time.

Smitty! Surely your charm is more effusive that Mr. Rahm's...

Something is more effusive...I am not sure it is his charm.

Smitty said...

I think the Dems would have lost even if they were able to get their message out.

I won't dispute much some Democratic losses. But proper messaging mitigates the damage somewhat; maybe the House is close but they don't lose it altogether. That kind of thing. Plus, it helps Dems further down the ticket.

By way of example, in MI, the Dems here also didn't say jack shit about any success they had, and suffered equal fate. But what else hurt them? 300,000 Dems (according to an EPIC MRA poll) didn't show up to vote on Tuesday that did in 08. 300,000 extra Dem votes makes Jocelyn Benson beat Ruth Johnson by a little more than 100,000 votes. It makes David Leyton beat Bill Schuette by 19,000 votes. It narrows the gap between Bernero and Snyder so the top of Michigan's ticket doesn't lose by 20 fucking points, dragging the rest of the ticket along with it.

Granted, Bernero wasn't that exciting. But what else wasn't exciting? Dems. The state's economy continues to struggle (a result of gridlock between our split chambers in Michigan), and the fact that the Dems didn't say boo like they did in 08 when they took the House by storm.