I am not a political operative but I do have over 30 years of experience working in communications. No idea if these hold up to any scrutiny, but I have a few suggestions on how to improve the Democratic messaging problem.
Thanks to a combination of a generally unfriendly media, a shit-blast of misinformation, and strategic errors, the Democratic Party has somehow found itself behind the 8-ball just over a year after the worst presidency in history, executed by a Republican, has ended. So, here are my suggestions, which probably don’t matter that much, coming from a communications professional who also happens to live in a town of 600 in rural central Pennsylvania.
Diversify the Concept of “Working-Class”: Somehow over the last 10 years or so, the image of “working-class” became solely a white guy in a camo hat and a hoodie who drives a pickup truck. Some of this was driven by the media’s neverending voyages to rural diners over the last six years. The pickup truck part of it is actually becoming absurd; have you priced one lately? Hard to imagine a working-class American affording one.
The absurdities of the imagery seem to be designed to cloud the fact that there are also a fair amount of Black, Asian, and Hispanic working-class people. As I’ve seen in my Facebook feed, the ones I know have expressed frustration about being left out of the economic discussions about the working class. Perhaps, just a suggestion, begin to talk more about how “hard-working Americans” include all races and ethnicities. Stress that the Black Fed Ex driver in Philadelphia, the Hispanic factory worker in Chicago, the Asian construction worker in Sacramento, and the white mechanic in rural North Carolina have a lot in common, share many of the same concerns. Do you want unity? Here you go, even if some well-off moderates may balk at the idea. It would have to be done with the caveat that racism in any form is not okay, but it can be done and might gain the Dems some of those precious white working-class votes.
Don’t Shy Away from the Culture Wars: Go at the Republicans about stuff like the mask wars – point out that the anti-vaccine/anti-mask people have indeed created a world where hundreds of thousands of Americans have needlessly lost their lives to COVID. Make them own that. Who cares if it offends most right of right-wingers? They are never going to vote for us anyway!
Also, use the current news about dangerous and violent airline passengers to make a point – Republicans have created a world where violent incivility is becoming common. Talk about how you know there are Republicans who don’t like this. And filet the eight Republicans who are against the no-fly bill. Go at them hard about this, talk about how they are not just the cause of this, but also are now actively trying to make it worse. And for God’s sake, stop doing the equivalent of striking an old-timey boxing pose and saying “I shall engage you in a fair bout of fisticuffs, good friend” in these fights. They come at us with broken bottles and groin kicks. So bring this stuff up:
Rand Paul’s son was arrested for assaulting a flight attendant. https://t.co/oud9NWDC3f
— Sam Youngman (@samyoungman) February 16, 2022
As far as critical race theory, talk about how they are threatening teachers with arrests and fines. Talk about how this is like something you’d see in communist China – find similar examples to compare! Make people see the similarities. State that our history is complex, a complicated story that is constantly evolving that is important to be honest about, and then say that the Republicans want to hide our true history, and that no one is telling white children to be ashamed of who they are. Say it’s about telling all children that there are moments in history where people stepped up and said enough – it’s inspiring!
Get Into the Rural Areas: Excellent AP article about how bad it is for Democrats in rural areas, because in a lot of ways, the party has abandoned them:
Urban + Rural.
🔴 + 🔵.
All 67 Counties.
I will always be a champion for the forgotten, the marginalized, and the left-behind places. There’s just no other way to win PA.https://t.co/1IYHq1gQN0
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) February 17, 2022
John Fetterman, my Lt. Gov., has not. Getting people like him, and even say Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, into rural areas is important not just for grabbing all-important votes in tight state-wide races like for the Senate and governor seats. It is also very important for the literal safety of Democrats living there. It would be helpful for Democratic politicians to hit these rural areas to show, at the very least, that they are not monsters who will ban hunting and force their children to listen to hip-hop. But too often, Democratic operatives focus solely on urban and suburban areas.
Look, no one knows better than those of us living out here how much of a lost cause many of these people are. They live to hate, and have proven over the pandemic that “we look out for others out here” is just something they say. But there really are votes to grab, and if you communicate your intentions and that you really do care about them, you can get them.
The last word goes to Neil Young, who asks a question I ask Democratic operatives: