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February 06, 2006

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...and the Democrats who are making those points (or any points) are...?

Watch the hearings and tell me. start with kennedy and especially feingold.

I may be (way) overshooting the subject here but I’ve been following the partisan war and thinking about this brand/meta-frame for Dems for some time now:

Democrats; the Party of Good Government
(people who believe in and fundamentally understand government of, by and for the people)

(Stay with me for a minute)

There are three main benefits to this brand/meta-frame:

1) It has been irrevocably ceded to Democrats by Republicans. After more than 40 years of running against government (and government-loving Democrats) as “the problem”, Republicans cannot credibly co-opt the mantle of the party that believes in, understands and (effectively) manages government.

2) It plays perfectly to present voter disgust over both the incompetence of the Bush administration and the general corruption of the Republicans in service of special interests and it puts a fine point on issues surrounding abuse of power vis-à-vis the Bill of Rights.

3) It is a fundamentally positive frame for Democrats that creates a fundamentally negative counter-frame for Republicans (and fits within and, at the same time, somewhat neutralizes Republican-created negative Democrat frames).

This is something of political brand jujitsu, taking the brand (the party of the government) that Republicans have hung around Democrats as an albatross and flipping it to something good and honorable. Democrats should kick aside their fear of Republican branding and wrap themselves fully and unabashedly around the idea of dedication to rational, competent government and public policies that make markets work better, deliver government services and enhance the role of the United States as leader in world affairs. They should adopt the mantle (and rhetoric) of FDR, JFK and WJC. They should talk glowingly about the nobility of government service, the social compact and the fundamental good that a “government of the people…” can provide to the health of the nation as well as better the life of every citizen.

How do Republicans attempt to run against that frame without sounding unpatriotic and/or inadvertently reinforcing their anti-governmental (the party that doesn’t believe in and can’t manage government) frame? The harder Dems celebrate good government, the

It is said that liberals think that only policy matters. But the frame “Democrats, the Party of Good Government” can also be portrayed as one in which good policy is merely the means used to manifest the democratic “values” of trustworthy and effective government of, by and for the people. The “party of good government” frame should contain narratives that embrace three core values:

1) Populism (loyalty to the American people and the nation, not “special interests”, first)

2) Pragmatism (choosing policies based upon measures of effectiveness – cost/benefit and ROI)

3) Dedication (to the ideal of government of, by and for the people combined with a strong belief in government as a positive force to solve serious national problems).

Owning the brand of the party of government (thank you, GOP) means that Democrats need only add the modifiers “effective”, “good” “responsive”, etc. Republican malfeasance on issues like Iraq, the economy and Katrina have neutralized the Republican meme that government doesn’t matter and/or that the solution to our problems can be found in the private sector. People are prepared for the idea that government policy matters and that Democrats are the best prepared to develop good public policy. Democrats need only articulate (convincingly) that good policy represents a value (democratic government in service of the people) and that their belief in that value (at least in stark comparison to Republicans) is almost a forgone conclusion.

They have the perfect recent narrative – the Clinton years – to both prove their bonafides on good government and appeal to nostalgia for peace and prosperity (read: a sense of security). The issues of Clinton’s personal morality are irrelevant within this frame. In fact, if used correctly (e.g., “government needs to worry about balancing the budget before it can start managing people’s personal behavior”), it undermines the entire Republican social values bludgeon. And for every current problem that vexes Republicans and Bush, there is a better policy and better results to be found under Clinton. Who knows, you might even convince voters that taxes should be raised to pay for services (okay, maybe not).

At one level, this idea sounds too simple and obvious to be right. If not for the nearly complete failure by the Democrats to successfully brand themselves or create a compelling national campaign, even in such desperate times, I wouldn’t be so proud as to suggest that I could offer the party a branding strategy. On the other hand, its simplicity is seductive and may explain how people much smarter and better informed than me could overlook it.

And I think I can defend this thesis. I’m not a linguist, strategist or politician, just a lifelong Democrat and political junkie with more than 30 years in the marketing industry. I would welcome your strongest criticism of this idea (lord knows, Republicans would bring all guns to bear to try to rip it to shreds).

The harder Dems celebrate good government, the...smaller the box for Republicans

katrina has opened that up for dems to persue. Everything else bush does has as well (see krugman today) but Katrina was the eyeopener, Shiavo was the foreshadowing.

"The attorney general's assertion that the program was legal immediately drew harsh reactions from leaders from both parties. " - NY Times.

Hotline 2/6 on the marriage equality issue:

-- Is something missing from the GOP's fight to ban same-sex marriage in '06?
-- Two years ago, with WH backing, voters in 11 states approved marriage amendments and, perhaps not coincidentally, fueled a base turnout of religious conservatives that put BC'04 over the top. Just this past week, however, the movement has fallen short in two '06 battleground states. In FL, backers fell 150K sigs short of the 611K needed to put a gay-marriage amendment on the fall ballot. MD legs killed a bill that would have done the same thing.
-- Meanwhile in CO, a surprise move by James Dobson's Focus on the Family to back a GOP bill extending benefits to non-marrieds, including gay couples.
-- The issue is, of course, alive and well. Voters will consider '06 amendments in AL, SC, SD and TN, and grassroots moves are underway in CA, FL and AZ.
-- What isn't quite as lively in '06 is the Karl Rove-led WH operation, which relied heavily on the '04 ballot inits to boost GOP turnout. Without strong backing from a focused and disciplined WH, will supporters enjoy the same success in '06?

Thoughts on the marriage equality issue and its affect on 2006?

I very seldom watch Fox, maybe four or five times a year but for some reason, I did tonight.

They had Britt Humes with his usual windbags for panel, but the lady (I don't know her name, since as I said, I rarely watch any Fox) made an interesting observation.

When asked about political fallout from the eavesdropping and who was winning in the court of public opinion, she said that up to now the Republicans. They president and his minions had successfully framed it as an issue of national security. However...with the hearings, it looked like the issue was getting ready to morph into, "Don't break it, we'll mend it," with Graham, Specter, DeWine and Brownback joining the Democrats on the panel and looking for a solution so that the White House has to follow the FISA law.

And as the panelist so brilliantly noted for the rest of the brain-dead panel, if the issue is morphed, then the framing would be not about national security but about presidential power and the president's unwillingness to live within the rule of law.

"But the narrative is that Bush is a failure, supported by Gallup data, pundits and the people."

Think big. It's not just Bush (who was supposed to provide oversight?). One-party rule under Republicans is a failure.

This is important. We're trying to elect Senators, Congressmen and Governors right now, running against Bush (alone) isn't the correct strategy. We need to run against Republicans in the same vein that they've been running against Democrats (AKA "liberals"). We've got an oportunity to tarnish the Republican brand for a long time if we keep our eyes on the ball.

"Thoughts on the marriage equality issue and its affect on 2006?"

My thought is that the Republican machine will break a cog to get measures on as many ballots as possible, especially in battleground races. Meanwhile, they'll play the hell out of the issue on the Mighty Wurlitzer. They are scared sh*tless they've lost moderates and won't get the base to show up at the polls.

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