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.