Messaging Maxim #7: You get the legislation or you get the issue

Thor's hammer, San Diego Comic-Con 2011

Thor’s hammer, San Diego Comic-Con 2011

Once again, Republicans in Congress have shot down a good proposal from the Democrats, this time a federal minimum wage hike. Instead of being dejected or just complaining about the “party of ‘no,'” Democrats should recognize that they have an important weapon, and it’s the hammer of having an issue on which to run.

Democrats can use this hammer to kneecap (rhetorically, of course) Republicans over blocking the minimum wage hike, just like Democrats can use the hammer against Republicans for blocking action on fixing America’s roads and bridges, creating jobs, immigration reform, and other issues. The hammer is based on not just the wisdom but also the popularity of many policies that Democrats push and support. For example, a majority of Americans support immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship. Likewise, more than 75 percent of respondents to a recent Harris poll favored expanded background checks for gun purchases, as well as restricting gun purchases from felons convicted of violent crimes.

Note that using the hammer on Republicans who’ve blocked legislation that’s good for America isn’t the same thing as just saying that Republicans are “obstructionists” who block everything in Congress. That sounds too much like Beltway Speak, and it got the Democrats nowhere in the 2010 elections. Rather, using the hammer involves a more emotional and personal attack, with anecdotes, for example, about a pizza chain in Minneapolis that raised its minimum wages not only because it was the right thing to do, but because it was good for business.

When you favor a policy, it’s better to get the legislation. But when your opponents block the legislation, and while you’re continuing to fight for the legislation, make sure you recognize that you have the issue, and use your hammer accordingly.

Photo by Pop Culture Geek, used under Creative Commons license.

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