How do we get our message out?

What is the Problem?

The problem is that the Republicans have taken a new step forward in political technology and the Democrats have been left in their wake wondering what happened.  While not going into all of the details, one of the parts of this puzzle is simply to get their message out to people and to keep getting it out.  It's just the old technique we all learned in school.  If we want kids to learn addition and multiplication - we just keep repeating the details until they become automatic.  1+1=2, 2+3=5, 5+8=13, 1*1=1, 2*3=6, 5*8=40, etc.  Someplace along the line we learn that 5*8 really means 8+8+8+8+8 but to really get fast and accurate at doing things like balancing a checkbook or multiplying three digit numbers you really have to "know" your addition and times tables.  It becomes automatic, you push the mental "buttons" "3" and "7" and out comes the result "21".  Constant repetition enables us to learn to respond in the right way.  The response becomes automatic, you don't have to think or mentally add up the factors, it becomes unconscious.

In the same way, political arguments, when repeated often enough, become automatic.  The Republicans have learned (and the Democrats are now starting to learn) that constant repetition will get their ideas across.  Its a little more complicated in the political realm than in elementary school so the messages are not always identical but they do have common elements.  

How do we get the message out?

Again, lets look at the Republicans.  For a number of years there have been meetings, often weekly, hosted by Grover Norquist.  These are meetings of the most important Fundamentalist Republican Conservative thinkers.  These people (and their staffs) go over and discuss ideas that have filtered up from like minded individuals around the country.  They go over the ideas, refine them, and those that they think are most important politically get disseminated to the most important Republican publicists, cabinet officers, senators and congressmen, political commentators, etc.  Then at the proper time the President or one of his spokesmen will make the first public statement.  Within a few days Republican spokesmen around the country will repeat this statement many times, having been primed earlier.

Democrats haven't been working this way.  Whether they don't work well in a rigid top-down hierarchy or whether they just didn't think of the idea doesn't really matter.  Consequently there is no consistent message to the people of the country to get repeated enough so that the ideas reach the stage of automatic or unconscious response.  If we are going to get the message out, we are going to have to do it ourselves.  Our elected officials in Washington DC and Olympia can do some but they already have a big job and they must get themselves reelected.  We don't have many local elected officials so they can't help a lot, and besides, they are busy people.  

That leaves us.  Most of us don't have talk shows on the radio, we don't have regular columns in newspapers, but we can all talk and we can all write.  I don't know about all local papers but I subscribe to the Republic News Miner.  It carries columns on a somewhat irregular basis from officials from conservative organizations such as the Association for Washington Business and others.  However the paper does publish letters to the editor.  I recently participated (signed) one complaining about the insensitivity and sexual stereotypes of a recent cartoon(?).  To avoid printing it the (non) editor made fun of it.  You can't always be successful in submitting a letter, but you will be most of the time.

Who do we target?

This has two aspects.  I live in Rural Eastern Washington.  I don't really know what is important to Western Washington.  I can spend my efforts much more productively on the East side of the state.  I also live in a very rural county.  I do get the Spokesman Review but I don't drive on Spokane roads (much).  I don't vote for their mayor or city council, I very seldom go to movies, restaurants, clubs, etc. in Spokane.  
I have a much better understanding of the counties in the 7th legislative district and to a lesser extent the other rural areas of the 5th congressional district.  I wouldn't be very effective in the cities like Spokane, Walla Walla or the Tri-Cities.

The second aspect is political.  We needn't worry about serious Democrats, they will vote for Democrats no matter what.  The same is true about serious Republicans, they won't vote for a Democrat no matter what.  We target wishy-washy Democrats and Republicans and the confirmed independent.  However, there is another way of looking at these people.  George Lakoff, a noted cognitive scientist and progressive, has theorized that all people in a given culture react to the world in similar fashion however there are certain differences.  In our culture, 21st century America, there are two different poles of political feeling.  He calls these the nurturant parent and the strict father models.  However all of us have elements of both in our makeup.  Generally Democrats fall under the nurturant parent model and Republicans fall under the strict parent model.  Independents and those who are Democrat or Republican leaning but not convinced he classifies as bi-conceptuals.  The independents or bi-conceptuals are the ones we are most likely to convince.  More on Lakoff's ideas later.

Nuts and Bolts - how could we do this?

This is the part where I am looking for ideas.  My first thoughts are that a group of people could get together and just write letters to the editor in local papers.  True, many of us already do this but very sporadically and usually about specific topics.  At first the letters could be written to correct statements made by conservative columnists an letter writers.  Then letters could be written using topics of concern to local areas and from ideas from democratic blogs, liberal columnists, and Democratic politicians.  These letters must be short, most papers will not accept letters longer than 150 to 200 words.  It is also much better if letters come from local people.  Papers differ but some restrict letters to no more than one per month from a specific person.  Since our rural NE WA issues are similar, a database of issues and responses could be useful.  We would need a number of people to write letters and to avoid some of the worst of the "stupid letters" that often are seen, an editor would be a great help.  An editor is not an insult or an affront to your creative abilities.  An editor is a sympathetic individual who agrees with your message and will check spelling, facts, and sometimes suggest an alternate phrase.  We all need a good editor, we tend to fall in love with our deathless prose.

Could anyone else use this?

This could be useful as a depository of ideas for Democratic candidates.  Any Democrat wanting to get an idea of how people are thinking could use this.  Letter writers could check to see if other surrounding counties have similar issues and use ideas from their letters in his/her letter.