Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

July 22, 2004

by V

Doing Right By America

It was instructive to Google the phrase "Doing Right By America" this morning. There were only 52 hits, the top few of which were: democrats.senate.gov, several copies of a July 8 statement by Tom Daschle, and a comment on The Left Coaster.

There will be many more such hits soon, according to CongressDaily:
Dems Unveil Message For '04 And Beyond

Hoping to duplicate the GOP's 1994 takeover of the House and Senate, Senate Democratic operatives for more than six months have been quietly developing a major overhaul of the party's communication and message strategies, pulling together a set of "language" recommendations and thematic arguments similar to the blueprint used by the Republicans a decade ago.

...Party leaders want rank-and-file members to begin using the Language Project document over the course of the next four months in hopes of not only influencing the outcome of this November's congressional and presidential elections, but also to reshape the public image of the party to boost Democrats' electoral success in the future.
This is a similar strategy to the work Frank Luntz did for Newt Gingrich that produced language designed to sell Republicans to voters in the early-to-mid 90s.
...Like the Luntz memo, the Democratic project provides specific phrases and terminology for lawmakers to use when discussing their positions, as well as more general recommendations on how to frame issues in public to emphasize how voters will benefit from the party's agenda. However, the Language Project does not include tips for how to criticize the opposition.
This reminds me of why I initially liked Howard Dean so much: he used different language and framed things in a more convincing way than the other candidates.

It's interesting that the Project isn't defining language for going negative (which Gingrich did). Maybe that part's just being kept private, or maybe the Dems know that if they can sell themselves properly, they don't need to get all shrill about the opposition.
[Wednesday] morning Daschle is scheduled to unveil the message, dubbed "Doing Right By America," in a floor speech arguing that lawmakers should use that phrase as a litmus test for whether proposed legislation should be supported.

Unlike previous recess message themes, Democrats will not go back to their home states to tout specific bills. Instead, leadership aides said rank-and-file Democrats are being told to make broader arguments, such as that the Caucus is committed to improving the quality of life of Americans and to limiting corporate excesses.
Hey, limiting corporate excesses sounds like a great thing to me. I look forward to seeing what exactly they have in mind.

Here's part of a Daschle speech from July 8:
Mr. President, this week I've been talking about a fundamental standard to guide our debates in the Senate. As we do our work, we need to ask a simple question: "Are we doing right by America?"

We need to ask that question on policies affecting farmers, seniors, and veterans. And we always need to ask whether we're doing right by American families when it comes to economic policies.
I like it. It sounds good to my ears.

It calls to mind the question of a policy's impact on the country as a whole, which is where Democrats' best arguments live.

It's also reversible, so that if you don't like a bill, you can start off by saying that (for example) a corporate tax giveaway measure 'doesn't do right by America', after which you make your more specific points. And by doing so, you've firmly nudged the discussion toward the realm of macro effects and secondary effects, which are realms the Republican Party seems to have ceased the serious consideration of (except to wave their hands and say things like "the Middle East will bow to us once we conquer Iraq!" and "Gay marriage will lead to dog-sex! ...What do you mean, 'how'?").

Of course, we can debate the question of which policies will constitute 'doing right by America', and we should. But having the debate at all starts the discussion from a much less right-wing, every-man-is-an-overtaxed-island point of view than the current public discourse.

I look forward to hearing more of what the Project has come up with.
Posted by V at July 22, 2004 02:46 PM
Comments

About.

Freakin.

Time.

Posted by: J at July 22, 2004 03:27 PM

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