Friday, August 27, 2010

Why We Suck

What Jonathan Bernstein said:
Democrats and their supporters, I would think, shouldn't be talking about "expiring tax cuts."  They should be talking about Republican tax increases, passed by Republicans in 2001 and 2003, and scheduled to go into effect soon.  And then, instead of talking about "extending" GOP tax cuts, the Democrats should be talking about the Democratic tax cuts, or the Obama tax cuts, that they want to pass.  You know, to replace the Republican-passed tax increase.

That’s exactly right. Democrats suck at framing, we all know this, and the whole “extending tax cuts” thing just plays into the existing frame of Republicans as tax decreasers, Democrats as tax increasers. Even though it’s not reality, we all know what matters isn’t what’s true but what feels true.

I’ve played into the “extend the tax cuts” narrative too, we all have, and that’s because we don’t have a George Soros-funded, hierarchical, institutionalized establishment organization drilling talking points into peoples' heads until we become like politi-Zombies robotically repeating the same phrase on every talk show until it's thoroughly drilled into the collective unconscious.

Instead, my e-mail inbox is filled with a dozen different messages from a dozen different groups all day, every day. We don’t have that laser-focused, cult mind-set. Because we are not an organized political party. We are Democrats.

Earlier this week I talked about how language slants polls. The fact that we are talking about the “Ground Zero Mosque” instead of the “Park51 project promoting moderate Islam” is no accident. Of course, one phrase is clunky and unwieldy; the other is generates an emotional response that is good for TV ratings.

Bernstein says these issues don’t matter and are merely "annoying” and “sloppy.” I disagree. I think it matters a lot because these things shape the media narrative and the media narrative shapes public opinion.

None of this is new, of course. We’ve been talking about this since George Lakoff told us not to think of an elephant. That was, what, six years ago? What’s annoying and sloppy is that we’re still ceding the discourse to the right wing spin machine. We're still on defense. That we still don’t have a better mechanism for presenting our arguments to the public.

And that is why we suck.