The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Marketing Problem

Paul Waldman contends that "Democrats don't have a policy problem, they have a marketing problem." This echoes the tired meme often suggested by Barack Obama when he suffered an electoral or legislative setback—the Dems policies are sound, they just have a "messaging" problem.

In reality, exactly the opposite is true. The Dems' increasingly left-wing policies are now out of touch with the values held by a majority of Americans. That in itself might be something that could be surmounted with clever marketing. But when it's coupled with a condescending attitude that implies that anyone who disagrees with the progressive view of the world is too dumb or too deplorable to understand the nuances of the progressive agenda, the Dems lose one election after another.

Waldman inadvertently demonstrates this when he writes:
What Republicans do have is a small number of policy mantras they repeat endlessly, distillations of their ideas that are so simple even the most distracted and ignorant voter can understand them. Cut taxes. Get government off our backs. Traditional values. Strong defense. They're simple and repeatable, and they never change.
Yeah, those of us who are "distracted and ignorant" might scrinch our eyebrows and rev up our low IQs just enough so that we can understand the wisdom of these "mantras" — that government is far too big and intrusive, that taxes are far too high, that profligate government spending has lead to crippling national debt, that values are fluid over time and not to be defined by one group and imposed on another, that we live in a dangerous world and need a strong response to that danger. Waldman is either too ideological or too stupid to recognize that he demonstrates part of the Democrat problem with a simple phrase in a single sentence.

But he's on a roll, writing:
Americans like the particular things Democrats want to do: Raise the minimum wage, have strong worker protections, protect the safety net, address climate change, protect abortion rights, guarantee secure health coverage, make college more affordable, and so on. That isn't the problem. The problem is that they have to spend time explaining all those things, at the same moment they're fending off crude culture war attacks from their opponents.
Yeah, us "distracted and ignorant" voters have trouble understanding Waldman's checklist, so much so that our progressive betters have to "spend time explaining all those things" to us. Could it be that many Americans view a $15.00 per hour minimum wage for a teenager working in a fast food restaurant as an excessive and ill-advised way to accelerate automation and cause that same teenage to lose his job? Could it be that many Americans view the "safety net" as something that is necessary, but not something that should last forever or be handed down from one generation to the next? Could it be that the Democratic plan for "guarantee[d] secure health coverage" was disastrous in its implementation? Nah, it's just that us deplorables need more progressive guidance in these matters.

Waldman concludes with this:
I suspect that a lot of Democrats wish that politics didn't have to be so simple-minded, and you could persuade people to vote for you on the strength of your ideas, whether those ideas could fit on a bumper sticker or not. But unfortunately, that's not the world we live in. A party needs slogans and synopses and a snappy synthesis of its proposals.

Democrats don't need to worry about their agenda; what they need is a better way to sell it.
Since far too many Democrats work in the public sector, it may be that they've lost sight of a key tenet that all private sector salespeople understand: It's harder to "sell" something when your customer clearly doesn't like it and doesn't want it. Maybe, just maybe, that's the core problem that Dems face.