Category Archives: Messaging Maxims

Hastert and Duggar sitting in a tree

Dennis Hastert

Dennis Hastert

After the recent sexual revelations involving Josh Duggar and Dennis Hastert, businesses that replace windows in glass houses are doing very well. Both the Duggar and Hastert cases are about hypocrisy, and psychologists might also say they involve loudly criticizing others’ sexual behavior to cover one’s own past behavior. But both cases offer some sharp political lessons:

Republican presidential primary problems

Ted Cruz, clowniest passenger in the GOP Clown Car?

Ted Cruz, clowniest passenger in the GOP Clown Car?

In the 2012 Presidential primaries, the Republican Clown Car had a crackup. The GOP candidates fell all over each other to kowtow to the narrow, extreme Republican primary base (comprised, for example, in Iowa, of 60 percent Evangelical Christians). Michele Bachmann said that the HPV vaccine causes “mental retardation,” and Herman Cain mocked the very idea of having foreign policy knowledge. Then came Willard Mitt Romney‘s disastrous “Etch-A-Sketch” moment, in which Romney’s Communications Director dumbly asserted that, after lurching to the right in the primaries, Romney could simply “hit a reset button” for the general election, “like an Etch-A-Sketch,” as if no one would hold Romney accountable for the positions he was taking and as if the giant Memory Machine known as the Internet didn’t exist. Romney’s Etch-A-Sketch moment perfectly summed up the Republican Party’s 2012 problem. Romney’s Republican rivals such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum pounced on the Etch-A-Sketch statement as proof that Romney could not be trusted by the GOPs conservative base. Romney ended up being trusted by no part of the electorate. Fast forward to the present day, and it appears that the GOP is poised to repeat these same mistakes of 2012.

Time to start the narrative against Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush embraces his brother George W. Bush

Jeb Bush embraces his brother George W. Bush

President Barack Obama‘s 2012 re-election campaign created a narrative against Willard Mitt Romney early, and this narrative (“Mr. Moneybags/Elite/1%”) was hugely successful. The Obama campaign followed Messaging Maxim #4: Feed the Narrative. Now, in 2015, Republicans are already actively running against Hillary Clinton, the current front-runner for the Democratic Party 2016 Presidential nomination. It’s time to do the same thing and begin defining John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, the current Republican Party front-runner. There are plenty of examples that prove Bush is another Republican far-right extremist who would be bad for America:

Messaging Maxim #8: Don’t use the other side’s labels

Protesters opposing Arizona anti-immigrant law

Protesters opposing Arizona anti-immigrant law

Republicans and conservatives, which are curently one and the same, love to come up with short, catchy labels for things. Here’s a list of popular Republican political phrases. Those labels and phrases are always loaded, either in favor of the Republicans, against the Democrats, or both. So, if you’re a Democrat, a liberal or a progressive, why would you ever use those Republican labels, making them even more popular so they get taken up by the mainstream media and become part of our vernacular? The answer is, you shouldn’t. But plenty of Democrats, liberals and progressives are making this mistake lately. Here are a few examples of Republican-loaded phrases that Democrats, and thus the mainstream media, are using all over the place. Hopefully, these will serve as a reminder to cut it out:

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.’