Friday, October 26, 2007

Is it all about the packaging?

Periodically, Democratic analysts seek to come up with an explanation of why Republicans have been successful politically. And often their conclusions revolve around how Republicans are somehow deceiving Americans with misleading messages and emotional appeals. George Lakoff wrote a book that was big in Democratic circles a few years back, Don't Think of an Elephant: How Democrats And Progressives Can Win: Know Your Values And Frame The Debate: The Essential Guide For Progressives explaining that Republicans won in 2004 because they do a better job at framing the terms for policy discussions. Now a Democratic congressional aide has labored hard and come up with the same conclusion.
Helfert sent the memo this week to an e-mail list of all Democratic press secretaries and communications directors after staffers met on Monday to discuss rolling out the Democrats’ latest message.

He said the meeting left him cold because it focused on what polling shows voters want rather than how to present persuasive messages. Republicans have done a better job by developing poll data into focus group-tested messages like “culture of life” and “defending marriage,” along with attacks like “cut and run” and “plan for surrender” in Iraq, he argued.

In particular, Helfert points to Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who helped develop the 1994 “Contract with America” and is credited with helping Republicans come up with terms for polices like “Healthy Forests” and “Death Tax.”

“Republicans have been kicking our rhetorical butt since about 1995,” Helfert wrote.
See, these Democrats believe that politics is all about massaging the messages, not about what the ideas are behind the message. They just can't believe that sometimes, people actually like Republican ideas but must just be fooled by a deceptive message. And why is he so convinced that Democrats don't know how to craft emotional messages? What about all those "do it for the children" messages that Democrats are constantly using? Isn't that an emotional appeal?