A New Message for Democrats

After the Democrats’ demoralizing loss in the recent Georgia special election, The New York Times ran a headline with this quote from a Democratic congressman: “Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump.”

He is exactly right. In much of the country the Democratic brand is toxic. Since Reagan, conservatives have done a remarkable job of defining liberals and Democrats for the public as tax-and-spend, weak-kneed, anti-American, abortion-loving, godless libertines. Worse yet, Democrats have let them get away with it, with no real rhetorical counterattack against conservatives. The results have been disastrous. Conservatives now control all three branches of national government-the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court-along with three-fifths of state legislative houses and governorships across the country.

Curiously, while voters are soundly rejecting Democratic candidates, they’re not rejecting Democratic policies. Poll after poll shows that a majority of voters agree with Democrats on many major issues, from health care to climate change to immigration. That can mean only one thing: Democrats have a serious image problem. Voters simply don’t like Democrats. They have no idea who they are, what they stand for, or how the party plans to help them.

Democrats desperately need a new message, and they shouldn’t underestimate the mountain they have to climb. Restoring their image will take an enormous marketing, advertising, and communications campaign.

It can be done, but Democrats need a plan. Luckily, we happen to have one.

“Finding Our Voice, Reclaiming Our Majority” is a 28-page communications strategy to help the Democratic Party rehabilitate its image and recapture the minds and hearts—especially the hearts—of the American people. This position paper lays out four primary messages the Democratic Party should convey:

  1. These are the values Democrats stand for.
  2. Democrats fight for workers and the poor.
  3. Democrats are the party of reform and clean government.
  4. Conservatism is dead.

“Finding Our Voice” justifies and outlines each of these messages and gives specific examples of how Democratic politicians and spokespeople can incorporate them into every political discussion.

The paper also offers a three-step plan of action for communicating them to the public.

  1. Create a vision: Democrats must tell voters what they stand for. They must help Americans visualize exactly how Democrats will make their lives better. The party needs to create a formal mission statement of Democratic values and lay out a specific agenda for helping Americans: tax cuts for the middle class, raising the minimum wage, guaranteed sick pay, affordable college tuition and child care, and so on.
  2. Launch a branding campaign: Democrats need a major marketing and advertising campaign to rehabilitate the party’s image. TV, radio, and print ads should focus not on specific candidates or issues but on Democratic values and accomplishments. In a future post we’ll show exactly how that can be done.
  3. Speak with one voice: The Democratic Party needs a strong, centralized messaging strategy, so that Democrats everywhere know how to communicate our common values and talking points. In a coming post, we’ll offer ideas on how that can be accomplished.

Democrats have an amazing story to tell. We hope party leaders will take a look at “Finding Our Voice” and reimagine how Democrats communicate with America.

Download “Finding Our Voice, Regaining Our Majority” (28-page PDF).

Hallelujah! Democrats Have a Plan to Fix Health Care

Praise be to the political gods! No sooner did The Liberal Message exhort Democrats to stand up and start aggressively laying out an alternative to the Republican agenda, including health care, than we read that 10 House Democrats are proposing ways to fix the Affordable Care Act.

We’re going to humbly take credit for this welcome news, even though we doubt any human being actually read our previous blog post. And we have a couple other points we’d like to make on that subject.

First, Democratic leaders need to embrace these proposals and make this a major publicity campaign. As we pointed out in our previous post, this accomplishes several things:

  • It shows leadership and strength.
  • It emphasizes the gratuitous cruelty of the conservatives’
    unnecessary plan.
  • It embarrasses conservatives, because our plan is simpler, better,
    and more humane.
  • It helps provide a desperately needed identity for the Democratic
    Party by telling voters, “This is what we stand for.”

Second, it would be a shame if Democrats allowed this proposal to founder because some liberals want to focus instead on a single-payer proposal. That’s a long-term debate. The ACA needs fixing right now.

The Democratic message should be that we have a reasonable and far more compassionate way to improve the current law. And we should be shouting that message nationwide, with a focused, coordinated marketing campaign.