Posted by Damozel | Having just posted my comment on the lamentable partisan struggles over S-CHIP, I found this article by Mike Soraghan from The Hill concerning the Democrats' battle for voters' hearts and minds: "Internal Dem memo faults party message."
According to Dave Helfert---a former Appropriations spokesman who now works for Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii)---the problem isn't (as I had speculated) that actual voters and the constituents who sent these people to Congress are fed up with their playing partisan politics on our time; it's that they aren't properly framing their messages. "'Why are we defending [the State Children’s Health Insurance Program] instead of advocating a ‘Healthy Kids’ plan?'", he wrote in an email that went out to all Democratic press secretaries and communications directors.(The Hill).
Ah so, that's the problem: the party's leadership doesn't think its constituents are as guilelessly credulous and easy to manipulate as the Republican leadership (seemingly correctly) thinks its constituents are. Or, as Menken put it and Republican rhetoric-masseur Frank Luntz can confirm, "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." (The Hill) That was my first thought. My second was: Could Helfert be right?
Following a meeting at which staffers met to discuss the Dems' latest message, Helfert found that he'd been left cold because of the lack of "focus group tested messages" such as "“culture of life” and “defending marriage,” along with attacks like “cut and run” and “plan for surrender."(The Hill)
"“Republicans have been kicking our rhetorical butt since about 1995,”" he wrote. (The Hill)
Could he be right? Let's assume for a moment that some Democrats are as credulous and as easily beguiled by rhetoric and symbols as many Republicans seem to be. Maybe it is a problem. Maybe the ones the party can't persuade to bother to get out and vote need better rhetoric to grease the wheels and get their enthusiasm cranked up and running smoothly. Is it time to bring back Doonesbury's Duane Delacourt?
Nancy Pelosi thinks not. Despite her reported worries about Congressional Democrats' massive PR problems, Pelosi wasn't interested. "“We appreciate input from those who have been on the front lines, and we value their opinions,” said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)." (The Hill) Maybe she and other members of the "leadership" simply didn't appreciate the implication that they are all too boring and too relentlessly wonkish to appeal to the emotions of the masses. Or maybe they're just afraid that listening to Helfert would be the sharp edge of the wedge....
Helfert wrote a master’s thesis in 2004 on how the Bush administration “sold” the Iraq war to the public. He was the Democratic spokesman for House Appropriations from 2003 to 2006, when he left to teach at American University for a semester....
He said he did not send the memo to the media. He’s gotten about 30 e-mails applauding his sentiments, most of them short “attaboys.” Staffers at the House Democratic Caucus, which is in charge of setting the Democratic message, were “a little less than pleased.”
“I’m not trying to stage a coup,” Helfert said. “I’m hoping leadership and some of the members will embrace these principles.” (The Hill)
Republicans were "amused." I'll bet. "Brian Kennedy, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said, “House GOP communicators would take his remarks as a compliment.”"(The Hill)
I'm so sure. And yet....aren't there clear signs that their guileless and loyal constituents are becoming resistant to all the rhetoric? Recent polls indicate that they are swiftly losing ground with certain members of their base. Doesn't this reflect that perhaps it was Lincoln rather than Mencken who had the better grasp of the American public's propensity not to look beneath the packaging?
Check out the jeers of the right wing bloggers and the thoughtful questions of the left wing ones here at Memeorandum, where you can test the wisdom of Captain's Quarters, Booman Tribune, Betsy's Page, Connecting.the.Dots, Right Voices, Agitprop and JammieWearingFool, one or two of whom could teach the rest of us a thing or two about the utility of labels, euphemisms, metaphors, catchphrases, bombastics, and the like.
And, for a really sustained jeer in language curiously dated and reminiscent of your great auntie's and a token squirt in the eye from her teeny pink plastic pistol full of vitriol, check out Michelle Malkin's piece: New Democrat Strategy: We Must Stimulate the Amagydalae! As usual, she doesn't seem to have read the underlying report particularly closely and---also as usual---she is hilarious, though perhaps not in the way she intends. Memeorandum has blogger opinions here.
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