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Sun Jul 12, 2015, 08:06 AM

ON MESSAGING: Why FL Democrats Can't Speak Their Truth



ON MESSAGING: Why Florida Democrats Can't Speak Their Truth
By Brook Hines - nashville_brook

http://thefloridasqueeze.com/2015/07/07/why-florida-de…ak-their-truth/

A reporter from the Tampa Bay Times asked me recently what I thought Florida Democrats’ message was. Off the top of my head I said, “We stand for values that promote a stronger Florida, like a healthy environment, economically secure families and a brighter future.” Later I added another thought in an email:“Our measure of success is when everyone succeeds.”

In the final published piece titled “Florida Democrats plot a road to relevance,” I was a bit taken aback that some of our party leaders, when asked the same question, couldn’t quite spit out an answer.

Alan Clendenin, vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party, told the reporter, “Our brand is sound,” adding, “Our problem is being able to boil it down into something people can buy into in a guttural way.” I assume he misspoke, but the malapropism gave me pause. “Guttural” refers to a strange, unpleasant, or disagreeable noise made in the throat; an inarticulate growl of sorts.

“An inarticulate growl” is where Democratic messaging stands in Florida right now. I believe this isn’t for lack of talent, even though FDP Communications Director Joshua Karp has departed to the Patrick Murphy campaign. There’s plenty of great communications professionals in the Democratic family, and stacks of research to apply to our project.

The fact is, we can’t have a clear message until we resolve the tension between voter and donor interests. And, there’s no better place to observe this conflict than in the Democratic Presidential primary.

It’s clear that the brand of the Democratic Party is contested territory right now. You’ve got the Bernie Sanders vision, arguing forcefully that Democrats represent average Americans who need leaders to fight for us against Wall Street and other forces economic predation. Great. We can run with that.

But then there’s Hillary Clinton, surrounded by Wall Street insiders, lying low, seemingly focused on not being quoted on anything whatsoever.

Sanders is the rock-star of the two at the moment, rallying stadiums wall-to-wall with cheering fans. That’s no accident. He has the freedom and the courage to lay out specific policies addressing the realities of American households, whose median net worth plummeted by an average of 36 percent, thanks to Wall Street’s pump and dump schemes.



Meanwhile, Clinton is playing defense; keeping it tight; doing roundtables with hand-picked small business owners, trying her best not to outline specific policy positions. A new tactic, perhaps understandably, is to make the claim that she’s the “most progressive” candidate, largely based on her support of gun control. It’s one of the few areas Sanders is weak on, so it makes sense to try and make the most of it. Predictably it’s not catching fire.

For his efforts, Sanders has been rewarded with passion and momentum, while Clinton’s campaign seems increasingly cautious — literally roping off reporters; issuing press releases about how she’ll start doing interviews…”soon.”



We’d be blind not to see this same tension in the Democratic brand — between the energetically aspirational and the cautiously generic — reflected in our state party. Our leaders are vapor-locked, saying little, watching and waiting to see what the Clinton campaign does. Her triangulation is their triangulation.

But why? Why is our old, powerful moral narrative — the one catching the country on fire through Bernie Sanders’ Lollapalooza-like rallies — somehow considered too dangerous by our own leaders? Do they not understand that the message works? Or is it more a problem of not offending the donor class standing in the shadows?

The Messaging section of the LEAD Task Force Report actually recommends a significant pivot in framing. The report suggests that we appeal to an upscale “middle class” mentality, which leaves out low-income and working families who are struggling to make ends meet. This new, wealth-friendly language was in such heavy rotation at the Leadership Blue Dinner that it harkened to the absurd overuse of “September 11,” by Republicans in the 2004 election cycle.



“Middle class” is a poor a place-holder to represent the Democratic base. It’s boilerplate New Democrat Coalition (Wall Street-friendly) messaging that expressly excludes low-income and working-class people, and so implies that Democrats will leave those who can’t make ends meet in the dust when it comes to crafting policy. This is not a message that will fill stadiums — or voting booths.

As a matter of fact, in terms of neutralizing the opposition and energizing our base, research by the Center for Community Change shows that one of our strongest messages is “America has swung out of balance, because economic rules unfairly favor the rich.” According to a recent report, this message, and a handful of others like it that confront economic predation, beat leading opposition arguments by at least 10 points.

What the faux middle class messaging communicates to working families is that if they can’t make ends meet, they don’t matter to Democrats. And worse, it makes it sound like middle class people are somehow turned off by issues pertaining to working class people. These ill-advised assumptions remind us of Bill Clinton’s DLC-inspired policy campaigns of the ’90s, like “ending welfare as we know it.”

That’s the messaging of the past, and Sanders is broadcasting the message of the future. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Bill Clinton’s time in office. Those, like myself, who were able to reach middle class status during the dot-com boom, have since lost jobs, houses and retirement savings in the Great Recession. Those who returned to jobs or remained employed have seen wages stagnate while productivity breaks records. We’re still scarred by the economic predation, because nothing was done to ensure that it won’t happen again.

This means we all identify with the economic justice message. Fewer people are drowning, but the trauma of The Great Recession still haunts us. And that terrifies Wall Street, as well as other big corporate interests who’d rather not be asked to raise wages or pay their fair share of taxes.

In terms of economic security, Americans are not okay. Not by a long shot. Young people coming out of school face an uncertain future with more debt than we’ve ever seen in the history of, well, debt. Seniors have been waiting for the other shoe to drop on The Grand Bargain to gut Social Security in the form of raising the retirement age, and cutting benefits. Families with children can’t afford day care to keep two incomes, and their public schools are being sold off to private companies.

The next election, and every election after, must address this, and Wall Street lobbyists know it. They’re willing to spend whatever it takes to stop that before it happens.

In the TBT article, 2010 Democratic nominee for Attorney General, Dan Gelber comes the closest to putting his finger on a message: “We’re looking out for you. We’re the ones who have your back.” Much better. Now let’s actually have our voter’s back on issues that matter.

And, let’s not double-down against having any message at all. One political insider shared this thought on Facebook recently: “I am sick unto death with ISSUES…How are we supposed to organize if we spend all our time talking about issues”? He suggests that we instead knock on doors and, I suppose, shame our neighbors into voting.

Please, don’t take this advice. Talking about issues is how we connect with voters. Shame is not who we are. Economic security, racial justice, a cleaner environment, healthy families and marriage equality — this is who we are. If the closest thing we have to a message is, as the joke goes, “the beatings will continue until morale improves,” then we’ve lost before we started.

When our party stops having the voters’ backs on the issues that matter to them, we matter less to voters, and rightfully so. We succeed when we’re working to ensure that everyone succeeds. If our leaders are frightened by this message, and the actions demanded by it, then it’s time to find new leaders.


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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 08:13 AM

1. K&R.....

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 09:51 AM

2. Talking issues means uprooting the Florida poli-economic machine.

Last edited Sun Jul 12, 2015, 10:58 AM - Edit history (2)

I won't be the first one to say that Florida is composed of small town politicos. We almost have a third party brewing in the Chamber of Commerce. What makes them so lethal is that their leadership consists of very politically connected individuals from both parties. And this group can depend on high profile professionals that will breach their ethical standards to support whatever cause the status quo wants to push in this state.

It is these faces that national-level politicians, like Hillary Clinton, see and respond to.

They define our issues. Which means, that if one of the political operations that they support through these ridiculous public-private partnerships promoted through the economic development departments goes rogue, those they victimize can expect to see further assaults on their rights as the group begins to take on the behavior of a racketeering organization.

Not such a pleasant scene when you're dealing with neighbors who take over community leadership roles to promote their private causes, rather than properly follow fiduciary responsibilities.

But, that's Florida in a nutshell.

So, no one who lives outside these small town circles are going to trust the Democratic leadership, when they just tick-along with the Republicans who are much more successful at selling their "small government" snake oil to their voters.

And, let's face it Brook. When the diverse pool of Liberals in Central Florida can't even come together because of lack of trust, you have to conclude that the groundswell we need in this state isn't going to come from leadership that originates from inside of Florida. And I'm sure that Republicans like it that way.



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Response to Baitball Blogger (Reply #2)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 10:10 AM

3. It can only come from the grassroots.

The entrenched leaders of the Party have proven themselves, time and time again, to be untrustworthy, self-serving, incompetent, and corrupt.

Energetic, unknowing people join the party hoping to bring about change, and they leave angry and disillusioned after what they encounter.

It starts with Bill Nelson and Debbie Weaselman-Shlitz, and flows downhill from there.

They would rather run a bought off Republican to run as a Democrat, than support an energetic, liberal or progressive Democrat.

I'll be working my ass off for Bernie.

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Response to Fuddnik (Reply #3)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 10:28 AM

5. The entrenched leaders of the Party have proven themselves, time and time again, to be untrustworthy

self-serving, incompetent, and corrupt. And that's the truth!

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Response to Fuddnik (Reply #3)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 10:43 AM

7. When it comes to the bought off Republican "converts" running for office...

...it's the old cliche, tired but true:

..."follow the money".

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Response to Fuddnik (Reply #3)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 10:45 AM

8. Debbie WEASLEMAN-SHILTZ...



I love that nickname for her!

You might see it in some of my future postings. It's sooooo appropo!!!!

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Response to Baitball Blogger (Reply #2)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 12:42 PM

13. indeed. i need to create a visual to illustrate what you're talking about

with the "third party" being the Chamber, b/c I'm more frequently seeing language like "we've been infiltrated." But it's far more nuanced than that. When people say "we've been infiltrated," they mean by the GOP, and it's easy to get discouraged if this is what people believe.

The fact is that it's not the GOP per se, it's the same interests that the GOP are so famous for having on THEIR side, such as the Chamber. That puts the ball back in our court. It's our own people making decisions against the interest of their constituents.

Beware of Dems touting a 100% approval from the Chamber, b/c that shows they're not really for "reasonable regulation." They're for no regulation. There's no "reasonable" in the Chambercrat's version of regulation.

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Response to nashville_brook (Reply #13)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 01:51 PM

14. If you want to break it down further, follow the land dealers.

The Real Estate Industry is a monolith of backwater power. Can you imagine how easy it is for an industry to cover up its tracks when it has the power to make amends by pulling injured parties into their fold?

Just give them a job as a real estate sales person and give them good prospects to follow. Or, pull them in where they can represent large swatches of commercial property in areas that the cities deem necessary to build the tax base in their municipalities.

People who see this side of the Florida circus have little respect for the kind of government that relies on regulation and oversight.

Probably the most disheartening trend is that these very motivated individuals join a diverse number of civic and public boards. In no time the only opinion you will hear in a community, is whatever opinion that that pushes their agenda.

They join ranks to push their "stories" and join ranks to degrade and defame anyone who stands in their way.

Crooked to the core.

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Response to Baitball Blogger (Reply #2)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 02:24 PM

15. " a third party brewing in the Chamber of Commerce."

What makes them so lethal is that their leadership consists of very politically connected individuals from both parties. ... It is these faces that national-level politicians, like Hillary Clinton, see and respond to.


Wow. This is as sharply as I have seen this put. Spot-on.

The only bright spot I see is that you cannot literally buy the popular vote. Money helps; money is important; money in the extreme (very much or very little) can be critical.

But moving people to the polls doesn't happen by dint of money spent alone. A lot of people -- and Democrats more than Republicans, thanks to Republicans -- have to make a real effort to vote, and they will make that effort more because they see and hear messages that speak to them than because of any number of glossy mailers or media ad buys.

That scares the hell out of the COC crowd, Republican and an unfortunate few Democrats alike.

Good.

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 10:24 AM

4. This is why what Bernie's doing is so good, so needed and so effective.

If these third way Democrats can't even articulate a position, it means that they either cannot or will not visualize anything beyond the status quo. This is why the blood of the American people is beginning to boil. This is why Bernie is filling arenas and has people coming out of the woodwork to participate in his campaign.

The stakes are far too high now for the status quo. We can't afford it any more as a species.

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Response to PatrickforO (Reply #4)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 07:55 PM

17. they're misapplying business principles to civic life

in business it's a competitive advantage to have predictability...gerrymandered districts promote highly predictable outcomes. but does this create a good environment for creative problem solving? i'd say no. it promotes status quo.

this leaves us at a terrible disadvantage in terms of "making things better."

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 10:37 AM

6. Exactly The Reasons I Will No Longer Settle For The Lesser Of Two Corporate Evils - Go Bernie Go

eom

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 10:53 AM

9. Rec'd

 

The problem with the Florida Democratic Party.....is the Florida Democratic Party. In 2014 we threw Nan Rich under the bus in favor of a turncoat Republican in the form of Charlie Crist. Now it appears we are doing the same thing with Alan Grayson who has been a TRUE progressive Democrat and a friend of organized labor with Patrick Murphy who was until recently a Republican. The leaders in the Florida Democratic Party are hardcore neo-liberal hacks, who care more about winning elections at any cost instead of the Democratic ideals the party was founded on. Watch them, at the urging of Wasserman-Schultz, try to derail Bernie while at the same time go against rules to further HRC's campaign.

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Response to ibewlu606 (Reply #9)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 11:50 AM

12. I disagree.

If they had any intention of winning elections, they'd all resign. They've been in a hole for years, and just keep digging deeper.

The sitting Chair of the FDP was an employee and lobbyist for ChoicePoint. Remember the 85% inaccurate purge lists in 2000, that threw about 100k Dems off the voting roles? That was ChoicePoint.

Her husband was on the legal team in Bush v Gore. And not on the Gore side.

The previous Chair? Had a lobbying business on the side with the Republican Chair. Threw away a ton of party money into her sons Florida House race. He got shellacked. Wouldn't fund people who could actually win.

Before that? Just plain corrupt and incompetent.

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 11:02 AM

10. FL Dems: Like watching an episode of 'V'...

...when the alien has her mask ripped off and starts spitting venom.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=38ssXW59rMc#t=119

That's some great messaging.

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 11:08 AM

11. It will take all of the people who are normally active in politics (volunteering, registering voters

writing letters to politicians and to the editors of our local papers, calling...), plus millions who do not normally do these type of things to give Bernie the power to make change happen. We got into this mess by becoming ambivalent about politics, leaving it for others to do.

Our Democracy has been stolen! Our former Representatives represent the Donors now, and have for 30-40 years. We have oligarchies in all major industries, our regulatory agencies allowing the industries they regulate to consolidate until only a handful of huge multinational corporations exist to control markets, the worst being banking, media, Big Pharma, oil companies, and the MIC! They have had their politicians change the tax code to favor them at our expense. They are polluting our environment at a record pace and always need more and more growth as if the earth has inexhaustible resources. Their media hardly speak about climate change, population growth and the like because to do so would start talk of reforms. We now subsidize the wealthiest family of all time, the Walton family, because they do not wish to pay a living wage or health care for their employees. We subsidize oil and insurance companies for no reason other than we allow them to bribe our politicians to screw us. Then they accuse us of class warfare when we speak of trying to stop them. They have had a great deal!

This is the battle of our generation! The consequences of losing are extremely dire. We HAVE TO WIN THIS TIME!

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Response to nashville_brook (Original post)

Sun Jul 12, 2015, 03:15 PM

16. three intitals D-W-S

dd to that four letters D-I-N-O

and the fact that to liberals, the party only has two letters, two letters that would get be banned, but one of them is definitely an "F".

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