Wednesday, April 27, 2005

We don't talk good

In today's lengthy post we look at how Democrats talk, drawing on three articles that popped up yesterday. Three writers, three problems, same conclusion. We don't talk good.

Problem #1: We talk too complicated, says Kid Oakland:
It's a complex world. We Democrats see that. We propose complex solutions to the complex, long term problems we see in that world. We love nuance. We love concepts:
  • global warming
  • the right to choose
  • universal health care
  • international engagement and diplomacy
  • respect for difference
  • freedom of expression
Your average Democratic activist can talk George Lakoff (a brilliant man) till we're blue in the face...without ever boiling it down into how we are going to use Lakoff to WIN elections. It's as if "we've only just begun" a thirty year project of sharpening our arguments so that we can engage the nation in an extended nerdy debate that will open the door to Democratic majorities. Trouble is, there's no time. …

Whenever and wherever the Democrats stand for complex solutions to complex problems, the GOP has a very simple strategy: They propose simplistic answers for simplistic world views. They don't have to be right, and quite often they are dead wrong. But they are cooking simplistic comfort food and the American public eats it up.
  • 9/11 = war in the Iraq
  • High oil prices = drill in Alaska
  • Murder = death penalty
  • Teen pregnancy = abstinence
  • Insurgency in Iraq = Bad guys and thugs
  • Advise and Consent = an up or down vote

So. Instead of droning on about universal health care and prescription costs and single-payer systems and portable coverage, we should say, “Our health care system is broken. We have to fix it. Let's figure it out."

Problem #2: We talk too careful, says Joshua Holland:
The Repubs have become mad with power and are vulnerable to ridicule – a powerful tool long underappreciated among Dems – but aside from Dean, Boxer and a handful of others, all they can say is that Delay and Frist and Robertson are "extremists." The time has come for our Luntz to emerge and start painting the Repubs as the out-of-touch, anti-American screwballs they are. So I'd like to hear “conservative Christian leaders” referred to as “televangelists,” or “greasy televangelists.” They're shysters and snake oil salesmen, and it's time we called them what they are. I'd like to hear a mainstream voice say, “what the hell does Pat Robertson know about faith? He's a TV preacher and a European banker.”

There's nothing to fear. The Republicans don't worry about pissing off the people at Counterpunch and the Dems shouldn't sweat upsetting the folks who consider the 700-club hard news.

I took my own stab at intemperate comments yesterday in my piece on Snowe and Collins.

Problem #3: We talk too embarrassed, says Sarah Posner:

Conservatives have succeeded in their efforts to make liberalism a dirty word, even to a lot of liberals. Why else would someone who identifies themselves as a Democrat balk at identifying themselves as liberal? You don't see Republicans balking at calling themselves conservative, because unlike conservative efforts to identify liberalism with too much government, too many taxes, socialism, moral relativism, enforced political correctness, and the disintegration of the American family, liberals have barely begun to equate conservatism, in the public mind, with religious, ethnic, and sexual bigotry, corrupt government, and reverse Robin Hood-ism. In other words, everything that is unAmerican.

Liberal is a beautiful word and we need to reclaim it. Democratic is a beautiful word. Let’s use both of them with pride.

Let's talk better.

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