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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Why Dems Need a More Positive, Generous Message

In “Watching Republicans Flail is Not a Strategy,” Ruth Conniff, editor of The Progressive, reminds Democrats not to get distracted by the GOP presidential candidates’ demolition derby. To thrive in 2016 Dems are going to need stronger messaging of their own. Conniff urges a major change in messaging tone and substance:

“The Republican destruction machine is opening up an opportunity. Democrats and progressives should start talking about what we are for. Here is what we are for: great public institutions that serve the common good.
For decades, a right-wing propaganda campaign has been claiming, falsely, that our public institutions are no good, inefficient and wasteful, and that they should be handed over to private business. Part of the reason that message resonates with the public is that everyone has had a bad experience with bureaucracy; waiting in line at the DMV.
But here is something else Americans know from experience: In the deregulated private market, con artistry abounds. That’s why Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have struck a chord with their criticism of hucksterism on Wall Street. Credit card companies routinely take advantage of their customers. And millions of Americans know what it’s like to be ripped off by big banks and jerked around by health insurance companies. Fly-by-night voucher schools and shady charter-school operators are cashing in on public education funds by shortchanging students.
If the privatizers have their way, soon millions of Americans will be sending our kids to school at private academies in the same strip malls where we use the privatized postal services, bank at the check-cashing joint and shop at the deregulated rent-to-own shop.
Progressives need to stand up to this dystopian vision with better values: great public schools for each and every child, a well-maintained infrastructure and communities that are a great place to live for everybody — not just those rich enough to send their kids to private schools, buy up the prettiest land and build big walls to keep the rest of us out.
A more positive, generous message leads to more progressive politics.

Conniff notes that the success of the Bernie Sanders campaign shows “progressive politics can still get serious traction in our country.” Instead of allowing Republicans the widest possible latitude in their government-bashing messages, Democrats should boldly challenge them directly with a positive take on the role of government.
Her challenge to Dems to focus their messaging more sharply on “great public institutions that serve the common good” provides an excellent soundbite/slogan for Democratic candidates and campaigns. Much depends on how well they work it over the next 13 months.

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