Category Archives: Messaging Maxims

Illegal on the Internet, or just stupid?

Angry Internet posting cat

Angry Internet posting cat

Elizabeth Lauten‘s resignation and a case pending with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Facebook posts give us a good reminder about what’s stupid, if not outright illegal, to post on the Internet.

President Obama’s stunning comeback on immigration

Rally for Immigration Reform, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2010

Rally for Immigration Reform, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2010

Americans might be calling President Barack Obama the Comeback Kid. After historic mid-term election losses for his Democratic Party just over two weeks ago, President Obama, with a 15-minute announcement last night, has now maneuvered himself into the position of (a) going on offense by taking action on immigration reform; (b) igniting the hopes and the hearts of millions of Latino Americans, who comprise one of the fasting growing voting blocs in the U.S.; and (c) making the Republicans look both lazy and mean at the same time.

An issue-based approach for Democrats and progressives

Wake Up and Vote for Democrats poster

Wake Up and Vote for Democrats poster

Mainstream Democratic and progressive voters don’t agree on everything, but they all seemed to agree on one thing after last Tuesday’s elections: the Democratic Party let them down. Democratic officeholders and candidates running for election ran away from President Obama and his agenda. One example was Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic challenger to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Grimes not only refused to assert that she had voted for President Obama, she was reluctant to tout the stunning success of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky (known as Kynect), and instead began most answers by naming problems with the ACA that need fixing.

Running away from the President’s record in 2014 made no sense for Democrats, as President Obama’s agenda literally was the Democrats’ agenda. Every law that President Obama signed, from the Stimulus to the Affordable Care Act, was something that a majority in Congress, and certainly a majority of Democrats in Congress, first had to pass. Perhaps some Democrats need to go back and read their Constitution, or watch Schoolhouse Rock.

What Republican men do behind closed doors

Senator Lindsey Graham with fellow GOP Senator John McCain

Senator Lindsey Graham with fellow GOP Senator John McCain

Senator Lindsey Graham is the latest in a long line of older white Republican men who don’t understand that the microphone is always on. Graham was caught on tape speaking before the all male, apparently all white Hibernian Society of Charleston, saying:

I’m trying to help you with your tax status. I’m sorry the government’s so fu#*ed up. If I get to be president, white men who are in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.

Graham’s office quickly contacted the mainstream media and spun Graham’s statement as just a “joke taken out of context.” The problem is, Graham remarks further a well-known narrative that the Republican Party really is the party of old rich out-of-touch white men who gather in exclusive clubs. This narrative has been built up over years of similar elitist statements by white male Republicans caught on camera or an open microphone.

After Ferguson, we’re done with the GOP

Protesters for Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO

Protesters for Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO by police officer Darren Wilson may well be a tipping point in American political history. The ensuing Right versus Left war over the narrative in Ferguson made it clear that we cannot reason with conservatives and Republicans. They are so invested in their tribalism and Kool-Aid identity politics (in this case, the Scary Brown People narrative) that, presently, there’s no chance of Republicans working with us to solve any big issues. Accordingly, Democrats and progressives might want to focus on the following three things:

The FCC’s Net Neutrality outrage of the week?

Net Neutrality gravestone

Net Neutrality gravestone

If you needed more evidence that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is captured by big corporations and ready to take a dive for them on Net Neutrality, that evidence seemed to arrive this week. Many of you know that Net Neutrality, i.e., the idea that companies should not be able to speed up, slow down or otherwise herd Internet users into particular affiliated corners of the Internet, generated over one million comments to the FCC, a record-setting amount. The FCC’s website got so overloaded that it shut down, and the FCC had to extend its Net Neutrality comment period, a rare occurrence. But now comes Gigi Sohn, the FCC’s Special Counsel for External Affairs, who said in an NPR interview that:

A lot of these comments are one paragraph, two paragraphs, they don’t have much substance beyond, ‘we want strong net neutrality.’

Did video help defeat Eric Cantor?

As we said over three years ago in Messaging Maxim #3, There’s an Invention Called Video, some Republicans (older white male Republicans in particular) seem to have trouble grasping the fact that statements they make on video are forever, and can come back to haunt them. This week, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor may have been hurt by the video maxim in a different way: being overly cautious about what he put on video.

CNN’s harvest of shame

CNN‘s desperate attempts to raise its flagging ratings have led to actions that can be viewed as either sad or comical. CNN spent months devoting the majority of its coverage to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, MH 370, beyond all reasonable proportion given that there were no new developments for days on end. The result was hours of cringworthy speculation, including the infamous moment where Don Lemon asked:

[W]hat if it was something, fully, that we don’t really understand? A lot of people have been asking me about that, about black holes and on and on and on, and all these conspiracy theories. Let’s look at this, ah, Noah says, ‘what else can you think? Black hole? Bermuda triangle?’ And then Deji says, ‘Huh? Just like in the movie LOST?’ It’s also referencing the Twilight Zone, which is a very similar plot. That’s what people are saying…  is it preposterous…?

Now that even CNN has had to curtail its MH 370 coverage due to lack of any news, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker recently gave some hints as to his plans for CNN’s direction. What emerged is an audience-driven format that seems to bear little resemblance to actual news coverage.

Bite-sizing climate change

Hurricane Sandy flooding, October 2012

Hurricane Sandy flooding, October 2012

Today, the U.S. Government released its annual National Climate Assessment (NCA) and it is deservedly scary. Just last month, the United Nations released its landmark report on climate change, and it also was duly scary. Both of these reports, like the ones published before them, indicate that climate change is here, that it is largely caused by human activity such as burning of fossil fuels, that climate change is partly responsible for severe weather events like storms and drought, that climate change, if unchecked, will cause massive economic and other upheavals, and that climate change can be mitigated by lowering greenhouse gas emissions and using more clean renewable energy. However, many people seem to find climate change too big and too scary, and thus feel frozen to do anything about it. Instead of treating climate change as such a big scary problem, as these reports often do, perhaps it is now time to bite-size climate change in order to solve it.

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.