The following article, “The key to messaging is repetition. These are the messages Democrats should repeat relentlessly” by Matthew Smith, is cross-posted from Daily Kos:
Mass-market messaging is all about repetition and consistency—telling the same story over and over till it finally sinks in with a media-deluged public. It’s the principle behind the famous “Rule of 7” in advertising (your audience has to hear your message at least seven times before they’ll consider buying your product). It’s why ads are repeated so often on TV or YouTube that we get sick of seeing them. And, of course, it’s the basis of Goebbels’s Big Lie (If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually believe it).
Conservatives have learned this lesson too well. We all know the Republican Party’s brand, because every Republican, from Congress to city councils, sounds exactly the same: “freedom,” “liberty,” the Constitution, “family values,” blah, blah, till we’re sick of hearing it. When they find a meme that works for them (“woke,” trans hate, Hunter Biden), they seize on it with a groupthink that’s honestly a little creepy. They know that simply by endless repetition they can create their own reality, persuading millions of Americans to believe even stone-cold lies—for example:
- Republicans are the party of freedom, Christian values, and fiscal restraint.
- The Second Amendment is about owning a gun for your own personal use.
- The election was rigged.
- Democrats are radical socialists who hate America.
Clearly, repetition in political messaging is a powerful tool.
Now ask yourself: What messages do Democrats repeat so often you’re sick of hearing them?
If an answer doesn’t immediately spring to mind (and it won’t), that’s an issue. It means, for one thing, that persuadable voters may not have a clear idea of who Democrats are and what we stand for. For another, if we’re not constantly, relentlessly telling Americans who we are, then we allow conservatives to define our party for us. And they are.
Democrats have inspiring, powerful messages to tell, and plenty of time to make our case. But it has to be a coordinated effort at message domination. From now till Election Day, we need to tell those messages so often that voters beg us to stop. They should be short, simple, values-based messages that solidify our party’s brand and define our core beliefs.
What should those messages be? What reality do we want to create? One would hope Democratic leaders are answering those questions now, but if not, here are a few suggestions (If you have other or better ideas, please post them in the comments):
DEMOCRATS MAKE PEOPLE’S LIVES BETTER.
This strikes me as the party’s most powerful and appealing message. But it can’t just be implied by our policies. It needs to be stated explicitly, and it needs to come from everyone, always.
- By all means tout the many, many accomplishments of President Biden and the Democrats, BUT tie those policies explicitly to our brand: The Democratic Party’s mission is making people’s lives better. It’s what Democrats do and what we stand for.
- We don’t just talk about making people’s lives better—we’ve been doing it for nearly a hundred years. Virtually every major improvement in our country’s quality of life has come from Democrats, including:
- Social Security and Medicare
- Affordable health care
- The very idea of a minimum wage and getting paid for overtime
- Unemployment insurance
- Civil rights and workplace rights for women, people of color, and LGBTQ
- Credit card reforms and consumer protections
- And so much more
- We’re the party of compassion and caring. Our primary goals are to alleviate hardship and suffering and to improve the basic quality of life for all Americans.
THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS UNFIT TO GOVERN. VOTE THEM OUT. ALL OF THEM.
Because negative messages work too. President Biden has very effectively made speeches about the conservative threat to democracy. But an occasional speech won’t get the job done. Every Democratic politician needs to repeat the message at every media opportunity, campaign stop, and debate.
- This election is truly a battle for the soul of America. Ultraconservatism and its slavish devotion to Donald Trump has become an actual destructive force in America. It is a toxic ideology that poses a real and immediate danger to American democracy and the principles we have stood for for almost 250 years. Republicans have proven it by:
- Trying to overturn a free and fair election, fomenting a riot at the Capitol, and preventing the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in American history
- Passing laws making it harder to vote
- Fomenting pointless culture wars that pit Americans against one another
- Spreading outrageous conspiracy theories
- Refusing to do anything about gun violence
- Undermining people’s faith in elections, a free press, science, law enforcement, the rule of law, and government itself
- Praising the authoritarian regime in Hungary as an example for America and threatening to withdraw support for Ukraine
- Banning books
- Threatening financial default and government shutdowns
- Nothing gets better without change. And nothing will change until every last Republican is out of office.
- Conservative policies toward the poor are immoral, cruel, un-American, un-Christian, irreligious, and inhumane.
- Conservatism is a timid ideology based on fear. Republicans are afraid of new ideas and anyone who isn’t just like them. Don’t live in fear, and stop electing politicians who tell you that you should.
- Conservatives have stopped listening to Americans. Polls show strong majorities of Americans agree with Democrats on virtually every important issue.
OUR POSITION ON [X] IS BASED ON DEEPLY HELD AMERICAN VALUES.
Whenever Democrats do talk about policies, they should always, always relate them to traditional American principles. Don’t just make intellectual arguments; appeal to voters’ emotions—their patriotism and national pride.
- Democrats passionately believe in the values established in America’s founding documents:
- All of us are created equal.
- All of us have an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- Liberty includes, as Roosevelt said, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear.
- Explicitly relate every policy to the core values behind it. For example:
- Gun safety: The unalienable right to life, freedom from fear
- Civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights: Equality, personal liberty, the right to pursue happiness
- Poverty and income inequality: Equality, fairness, freedom from want, the right to pursue happiness and the American Dream
DEMOCRATS FIGHT FOR THE UNDERDOG.
- We fight for everyone who needs a voice in America—workers and their families, the poor, people of color, LGBTQ people, voters having their rights taken away.
- It’s not about “identity politics” or “class warfare,” it’s about living up to the American ideals of equal opportunity, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
DEMOCRATS BELIEVE IN AMERICA’S FUTURE.
America is doing well. We are the greatest, richest, most powerful nation on earth, respected and admired around the world. We believe America can do anything we set our minds to. We can create the society we want.
We are the party of optimism and progress—the only party with a vision for the future and a better way of life for America. Republicans have no vision for the future and nothing to offer but divisive culture wars and a dark, apocalyptic view of our country.
Reasonable Democrats may have disagreements about the specifics of message content. But Smith is surely right that Democrats can profit from better message discipline, repetition and, especially coordination.