Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

PUBLIC OPINION....Atrios, predicting a veto of the SCHIP children's healthcare bill followed by yet another dreary round of "Democrats can't get anything done," thinks Dems need a better media strategy:

I get the sense that Democrats craft these things behind closed doors, try to come up with palatable bipartisan agreements, and then show up on the teevee the day of the vote and announce that they passed it....The Republican version would've been to spend 6 months telling people that kids are GOING TO DIE RIGHT NOW UNLESS THIS BILL PASSES and beating the Democrats into submission. That isn't how our team works. Which is fine, if it achieves something. Not fine if it doesn't.

That's exactly right. Public opinion is key, and although there are conspicious exceptions to this general rule, conservatives are better at molding it than we are. It's the same reason that opposition to the war ran into a wall this summer: Petraeus spent all of July and August conducting a quiet media blitzkrieg selling the surge, while the rest of us twiddled our thumbs and waited for his September testimony. But by September the deed was done. Support for the war, which was beginning to crater even among Republicans earlier this year, had been successfully shored up before Petraeus ever set foot in a hearing room. Public sentiment for the war may not have increased after Petraeus's testimony, but its downward slide was halted, and that was enough. Mission accomplished.

Public opinion. Public opinion. Public opinion. That's what matters, and we have to get better at changing it. The first step is to understand it.

Kevin Drum 5:46 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (71)

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what's hard to understand?

Party Favorability: DEMS 53% - GOP 38%

Party of Prosperity: 54% DEMS.....GOP..34%

Party of National Security: DEMS 47%....GOP 42%

- Gallup 9/17/07

Posted by: mr. irony on September 27, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

The motivation behind the expansion of the SCHIP program was obvious from the beginning--the expansion of government health care to a larger portion of the middle class and another shot in the head for private health care. Making up things out of thin air now isn't going to help.

As if the Democrats haven't been playing the "Bush wants kids to die" card for weeks, now. Don't know where Atrios has been.

Posted by: harry on September 27, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is exactly right. The Democratic leadership should have been laying the ground work for SCHIP for the last 6 months. Bush has been hinting a veto for at least that long. Instead they have been relatively silent. Apparently they couldn't believe he would be willing to put American kids at risk. Where have they been the last seven years.

The Democratic leadership should have long ago announced loudly that without SCHIP reauthorization some lower middle class kids are going to die. The choice should have been drawn in stark bold colors. Instead the debate has descended into mind numbing wonkery.

Posted by: corpus juris on September 27, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Sure. The blogs have been recommending that strategy for months, but the DC Democrats would rather keep quiet to avoid embarassing their Republican colleagues.

Take the Webb amendment. It should be debated night and day if the Republicans want to filibuster it. It should be attached to every piece of legislation. The blogs have recommended that strategy for months. The amendment sells itself.

Instead, the DC Democrats took 2 hours to debate it, lost the cloture vote and then hid. At this point, what can you say about them? They have the political instincts of a concussed gerbil.

Posted by: ferg on September 27, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I don't think either party inside the Beltway cares much about public opinion, but they both care a great deal about what they think public opinion is, i.e., pundit opinion.

The Democrats have been absolutely pathetic, not only about working to shape that opinion in their favor by serving pre-digested narratives and opinions supported by synchronized multi-voice repetition, but also in failing to anticipate the obvious Republican efforts that way. It's like they have no clue about how to actually be politicians. Everyone knew back in June what Petraeus was going to say, and there was no Democratic effort to arrange things so when he said it, the response went in their favor.

And when even a Rethuglican like Grassley does better messaging on SCHIP, I have to cry.

Posted by: biggerbox on September 27, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

So true, but isn't this what we've been saying for 6 years? What does it take to get them to change tactics?????

Posted by: jrs on September 27, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

This drives me crazy! Are there no Dem media strategists who have a talent for this?

I despise Rove and Lee Atwater. But I wish the Dem's had a fraction of their talent for framing an issue in public opinion.

Posted by: Ish on September 27, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

If Democrats had any brains, they would not have de-regulated media ownership. If Democrats had any brains they would re-regulate media ownership and tear apart the monopolization of the media that has served the Republicans so well. I know, they cannot do it now with a coke whore in the White House, but the blame for media deregulation is probably their's and Bill Clinton's fault in the first place. DLC Democrats created this inability to have any but the most corporatist of messages broadcast to the masses, and there is not much any of us can do about it.

The only group that can craft mass public messages now in the US are corporate Republicans. This was a gift from DLC Democrats, who pushed for deregulation of many industries, not just media ownership, during the Clinton administration.

Posted by: Brojo on September 27, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

shorter bush and harry--"corporate profits for private health insurance companies are more important than children's health."

simple enough? Democrats really are the greatest obstacle to Democrats becoming a super-majority in Congress.

Posted by: harry is an idiot on September 27, 2007 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, Kind of makes you wonder just whose side the DLC is on, doesn't it?

Posted by: corpus juris on September 27, 2007 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

But Faux News might attack if we stand up to the noise machine!!

God, what spineless Dems.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on September 27, 2007 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

Public opinion. Public opinion. Public opinion. That's what matters ...

—Kevin Drum

In the case of the war,

Public opinion + Cowardice of Dem Leaders = Defeat

Public opinion is on our side. It is the cowardice of our leaders -- fully on display in last night's debate -- that totally offsets public opinion.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 27, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

The funny thing about SCHIP is that it is very popular among Red State governors. The state Republican parties feel like they are in need of a life preserver but Bush has decided to throw them an anchor. I sort of feel sorry for the Republican governors who are watching their careers go a glimmering because Bush is under the spell of the Heritage Foundation's corporate welfare agenda.

Posted by: corpus.juris on September 27, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Well, *I* think the first thing to do is to form a circular firing squad, to de-legitimize all the major Democratic players and to sour the public on the issue from the outset. Then the survivors should splinter into hostile factions, each of which can then engage in earnest navel-gazing and echo-chamber exercises. These exercises ideally will produce multiple, dense, fully irreconcilable position papers, which nevertheless should not be so inclusive that they do not prevent at least a third of the participants bitterly exiting the process entirely. The papers then can be posted on websites and/or presented at obscure conferences, followed quickly by plaintive inquiries about why nobody pays attention to them. Such further discussion as then leaks into the public realm should have a heavy over-representation of the angry ex-participants, while the more mainstream points of view should be muted on the advice of wise and experienced political consultants, lest the Republicans somehow turn it into an issue to be used against us.

Posted by: bleh on September 27, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

But Bush doesn't care one bit about public opinion. He said he would keep the war going even if Laura and his doggy were the only ones left supporting him.

Posted by: Noah on September 27, 2007 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK
Public opinion. Public opinion. Public opinion. That's what matters, and we have to get better at changing it.

Kevin, step 1 of that is to stop validating hostile frames whether set up by Republicans per se, or just members of the media looking to score points or lazily justify a preconceived narrative.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 27, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

The funny thing about SCHIP is that it is very popular among Red State governors.

Sure. Get a bunch more people off of state-funded programs and onto the Federally-funded programs. For state officials, what's not to like? Don't assume it's higher motives.

Posted by: harry on September 27, 2007 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats keep floundering because they have no guiding vision. The Republicans have BushCo to front the GOP machine, hand out the agenda, and keep everyone in line.

The Democrats have nothing like that. Pelosi and Reid are placeholders, not willing to expend any political capital until there's a Democrat sitting in the White House giving orders. The Clinton DLC mafia are keeping anyone from setting a hard line - because until HRC is crowned, they don't want any other centers of power to form.

On the Petraeus testimony, the Democrats were all waiting for testimony to confirm what everyone knows - while instead Petraeus was laying down a cloud of smoke to give the Republicans cover on Iraq. Mission Accomplished.

The Democrats will continue to be outmanuvered until somebody ends up in charge. Until then, don't expect much.

Posted by: xaxnar on September 27, 2007 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

He said he would keep the war going even if Laura and his doggy were the only ones left supporting him." Posted by: Noah on September 27, 2007 at 6:29 PM

Good thing, cause Laura and the doggy are the only ones left. And the doggy is leaning centrist.

Posted by: Zit on September 27, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

While Congress is busy passing resolutions condemning MoveOn, maybe they could also pass one condemning Rush Limbaugh, for his "phony soldiers" label for service members who support U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Posted by: Nemo on September 27, 2007 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

The funny thing about SCHIP is that it is very popular among Red State governors. The state Republican parties feel like they are in need of a life preserver but Bush has decided to throw them an anchor.

Stupid, isn't? This was brought up after the 2004 election in the broader sense that all the dirt poor red states in the South that went for Bush get a bigger chunk of federal largess than they pay in federal taxes. Alaska's the same way. Too bad the economic pie hasn't gotten higher for everyone with all the tax cuts for the wealthy.

I sort of feel sorry for the Republican governors who are watching their careers go a glimmering because Bush is under the spell of the Heritage Foundation's corporate welfare agenda.Posted by: corpus.juris

I don't. The only good Republican is one out of office.

Posted by: JeffII on September 27, 2007 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

Public opinion. Public opinion. Public opinion. That's what matters, and we have to get better at changing it. The first step is to understand it.

No, apparently. The first step would appear to be yet another round of wankery intended to raise the visibility of the problem that we don't understand how to change public opinion. At some point, when there's finally sufficient visibility that we all can agree we need to learn how to change public opinion, then we can begin the process of educating ourselves.

Meanwhile, the conservatives keep hammering the memes home.

And you freaking people wonder why liberals have such a lousy reputation for being ineffectual. Not very good at irony, are we?

Posted by: s9 on September 27, 2007 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on September 27, 2007 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Which mainstream media organization would give a liberal, Democratic or otherwise, message exhaustive coverage? I cannot think of any. Having the message without the means to disseminate it is where liberals are today. Blogs are great for ranting, but they are unable to provide a mass message able to mold public opinion. The only way to make a mass message resonate is repetiton, and the corporate owned, Republican beholden, mass media corporations are not going to allow a liberal message the chance to create a public opinion unfavorable to theirs. Gore or Soros or Springsteen or MoveOn or somebody halfway liberal needs to buy a TV network.

Posted by: Brojo on September 27, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

harry: The motivation behind the expansion of the SCHIP program was obvious from the beginning--the expansion of government health care to a larger portion of the middle class and another shot in the head for private health care.

Yes, that's why I'm in favor of it.

As if the Democrats haven't been playing the "Bush wants kids to die" card for weeks, now.

That's not a fair thing for them to say. I'm sure that Bush doesn't want kids to die, he just doesn't give a shit one way or the other.

Posted by: alex on September 27, 2007 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

Its very unfair to say the Democrats can't get anything done.
They've successfully passed a bill to fund the Iraq war, they've passed a bill gutting FISA and immunizing Bush for breaking the law. Why only yesterday the Senate passed a bill which will help in the ongoing Iranian war on us.

Posted by: NYT on September 27, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Pains me to say it, but you're part of the problem. You talk about how the Republicans get the blood boiling to get their way and that the Dems have to understand public opinion better. But then what do you advise?

Well, yesterday, in "The Argument" you laid out this nice rational case showing how on a cost-benefit basis our continued presence in Iraq is perhaps no longer advisable. Yes, that should do it. I'm really angry as hell now and I'm not going to take it anymore. Really really angry.

Kevin, Republicans act on an emotional level, aiming at the great mass of the American people out there. Democrats commit suicide when they follow strategies like yours.

We need to go after the war in Iraq on a really gut level as well. We need to pick our enemy and make Americans so disgusted they will demand we get our troops out now.

I said this to you before back on May 24 when you made a similar argument, and I think my strategy still holds up:

"So, Kevin, I think you have it exactly wrong. You say the Democrats should make a *positive* case for withdrawal. No, the Democrats should make a bitter, angry case for withdrawal. And they should make the public bitter and angry as well. But not at Bush -- he's just a roadblock, not a real actor -- but at someone we can all get behind to really hate and resent.

The Democrats should attack the government of Iraq. The government that takes two month summer vacations in posh foreign resorts while our boys and girls are sweating and dying over there. The squabbling, feckless bunch of buffoons that can't pass the simplest piece of legislation. The pack of corrupt thiefs who rip off our money and that of the Iraqi people to feather their own nests. The murderous political gangs who have let death squad militias infiltrate the ministries.

We won't put up with it anymore. We can't ask any brave American soldier to be the last one to die for this criminal bunch of parasites.

We lost this round. It's the third quarter and suddenly we're down five points. But in the fourth quarter, we pound this message home again and again and again so that when September comes, it doesn't matter what Petraeus or Bush say about how well the troops are doing. We know they're doing a great job. They're heroes. And we gave them the money to do the job. But by September, by the end of the fourth quarter when crunch time comes, we *must* have won the debate for framing the question: why are we giving up blood and treasure to fight for this despicable Iraqi government?"

We have paid the butcher's bill long enough. We gave the Iraqis a huge blank check and they squandered it. We will withdraw because the Iraqi government betrayed us. They are the enemy. And the American people must understand that.

Posted by: santamonicamr on May 24, 2007 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: santamonicamr on September 27, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Can anyone name the names of the Democratic National Committee? Why are they not Republicans?

Why shouldn't the out of the Beltway Democrats splinter off with some new 3rd party?

Posted by: slanted tom on September 27, 2007 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Frustrated about public opinion? The Congress, which is run by liberal/progressive Democrats, has a public approval poll rating of 11%. The public expects nothing from Democrats and that is exactly what they're getting. You leftists keep beating up on Bush but he is twice as popular as the people you have in office. Posted by: mhr

Wow! I got to hand it to you mhr. You didn't post something egregiously stupid of offensive for once. It is a complete misrepresentation of all polling data on the subject, but for you that's a definitely a step up.

Keep it clean like this and you'll be tag-teaming with Al in no time, which isn't a bad thing since what he posts is so amazingly stupid that it's actually humorous.

Posted by: JeffII on September 27, 2007 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

The biggest problem is that Democrats don't understand that public opinion can be changed; they take it as a given, a reason why change is not possible. Republicans do not make this mistake.

Posted by: Joe Buck on September 27, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

mhr: "You leftists keep beating up on Bush but he is twice as popular as the people you have in office."

Wow, Bush at 22%. My hero!

How's boot camp, by the way?

Posted by: Kenji on September 27, 2007 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

The Sunday before the 2004 election, the PAX TV network ran the Swift Boat smear movie consecutively about five or six times in my city. PAX TV's mission was stated to provide family programming, but it really was a political media organization dedicated to conservative propaganda. Almost all TV and radio stations and networks are now dedicated to conservative propaganda. This makes it very difficult for liberals, or liberal Democrats, to create any kind of a progressive message that will be heard. Until liberals obtain such an outlet for their views, they will go unheard.

Posted by: Brojo on September 27, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

NPR was reporting that 100% of democrats and 18 republicans were in favor, thus over-riding a presidential f--ing veto. I was pleased.
Money for war, he thinks, but none for 'childrens.'
(Sarcasm--his recent dyslexic gaff.)
Love ya, Political Animal. Sorry for the lack of posts or attention. Girl is busy.

Posted by: consider wisely always on September 27, 2007 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

Public opionions are like azzholes everyones got one- Bush started this war and wants to leave the problem to the next President, that alone tells me what sorry piece of SHIIIIIAAAT he is, he should pull at least half the troops home now it is a no win situation, look at the rats that have already jumped ship. HELLO

Posted by: Al on September 27, 2007 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

The first step is to understand it.

—Kevin Drum

I think Hillary said it first in one of her earlier Frm debates - it is a vast right-wing game of ownership. If they own the media - they own the message.

liberals need to buy up media, billboards at first, radio, then TV.

Blogs are where it will be in futher, buy all or as much as possible - even Dems could do what that Repug ownd mag, TNR did by finding a bunch of Dems who were willing to trash fellow Dems.

There are a lot of conservatives that aren't happy with today's GOP - lets find some conservatives that will trash Bush and all those criminal congressional Repugs. Call the new mag The Old Republic (or what is left of it).

That is how the Repugs did it - they found liberals that had no problem trashing MoveOn.org as well as other liberals people and ideas and trashed them. It's a Rovian smear campaign, then put those same conservatives on TV - holding them up as centrist.

Posted by: Me_again on September 27, 2007 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

*
Posted by: mhr on September 27, 2007 at 7:18 PM

You've got to be kidding. Surely you mean ** ?

Posted by: Bob M on September 27, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

What does it take to get them to change tactics?????

Primary challengers.

Maybe progressives are finally learning the lesson that we can't trust anybody else to do our dirty work. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on September 27, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

I support SCHIP and the Repubs are taking a well deserved beating in public opinion on this issue, but to argue that Dems are just too demure to stand up to the Repub machine is a little hard to swallow. My experience with Dems, back when I was with the Master Rove, was that they argued Bush wanted to drag blacks behind trucks with chains, they wanted to put arsenic in drinking water, they wanted to throw grandma out in the snow with no shoes, etc. In the last few months we've heard flapping and jibbering about how jackboots will be kicking down doors at midnight if we allow the NSA to look at bank wire transfers in Belgium. I don't think the problem is that you're too naturally sweet and sportsmanlike to compete, I think it's because you choose the wrong issues.

Posted by: minion on September 27, 2007 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of public opinion and Gen. P (as someone up thread was), go to Yahoo.com and click on this headline:

• Alliance between U.S., Sunnis in Iraq province close to collapse

Hopefully Dem Congressional leadership will jump on this as the debate over war funding winds up.

Posted by: Keith G on September 27, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Public opinion is key, and although there are conspicious exceptions to this general rule, conservatives are better at molding it than we are.

What do you mean "we" Kevin?

Left bloggers generally do a very good to excellent job at framing and expressing political argument. It is the "leadership" of the Democratic Party that chooses not to do this.

Why? Well "we" have no idea, really, but we increasingly reject stupidity and incompetence and increasingly suspect that the Democratic "leadership" does not really oppose Republican policies, including but not limited to the Iraq occupation.

Posted by: James E. Powell on September 27, 2007 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

This, to me, seems really related to the Bob Herbert piece. That he pays no mind to the psychology of his readers while writing important, albeit boring, text.

One needs to have a marketing strategy and to execute it. Democrats tend to either chase the market or ignore the market when they should be driving the market.

Posted by: jackifus on September 27, 2007 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK


The immortal Tom Lehrer once observed that "The reason folk songs are so atrocious is that they were written by 'the people'." The difference between folk songs and public opinion is that "public opinion" trickles _down_, it doesn't bubble _up_.

The American public includes the half of the population that keeps America's median IQ down to 100. It includes, for instance, a fair number of bible-thumping conservative Kansans who think that al-Qaida hates them more than it hates us godless Eastern liberals. Where do these heartland yahoos get the idea that they are more at risk from "terrists" than we coastal elitists are? Surely not from direct personal experience. The residents of the Burrough of Manhattan know a damn sight more about terrorism, first hand, than do the residents of Manhattan, Kansas. So, where do Kansans get their "public opinions" about the threat of al-Qaida, or the importance of the GWOT, or the idea that by sending their sons to die in Iraq they are protecting something other than the Sodom and Gommorah that is NYC? From the teevee, that's where.

Television feeds on controversy. It cannot live without it. Let's give the teevee some real controversy to chew on: let's start pointing out that the heartland yahoos who think they are "patriots" are really only cowards. They are so scared shitless of "terrism" that they would drag the rest of us, who actually do have something to fear from terrorists, into counterproductive wars to protect ... well, who?

The way to shape public opinion is to start calling the half of the public that is stupid, well ... stupid. Nothing _else_ seems to have worked.

-- TP

Posted by: Tony P. on September 27, 2007 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Public opinion. Public opinion. Public opinion. That's what matters, and we have to get better at changing it. The first step is to understand it.

Start by understanding that the media is in the hands of the right wing.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on September 27, 2007 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

I really do think that the key to Republican and right wing success in shaping public opinion is really quite simple at base: teamwork and coordination.

The point is that it really doesn't make a great deal of difference just what issue they happen to bring up. They achieve complete immersion of the public in the issue by unrelenting focus on it. The issue can be almost self-evidently absurd, such as the Kerry botched joke, or the MoveOn ad. It doesn't matter. The issue can't be ignored because that is all they will talk about, no matter what subject is brought up.

And the immersion of the public in the issue is exactly what the public requires for it to make a genuine impression on them.

I don't even think that the Republicans are particularly competent at coming up with particularly resonant issues. That pales by comparison in importance to the fact that the public can't forget whatever issues they have brought up, and those issues favor the Republicans.

It is exactly on the point of teamwork and coordination that the Democrats fail. They may have an assortment of issues, each of which is very persuasive. But most of them make little impression on the public because they are mentioned by different people at different times, and the public is left with a confused mess.

The Democrats need to do what the Republicans do: know at every single moment exactly which issues they should be pressing. They should go on the talk shows on each weekend and press exactly those issues and no other. Freelancing should be scorned.

I really do think that that is the most basic thing that needs to change -- more so than any reorganization or rethinking or reframing of the message.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 27, 2007 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

FDR never hum'h and haw'd. Democrats should do what they believe in and believe in what they do. Don't be like republicans. When the ship is close to going over the falls, is no time to study physics.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08! on September 27, 2007 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum seems to believe that the public rallied behind the war this summer.

What fucking world is he living in?

Posted by: Soullite on September 27, 2007 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

"One needs to have a marketing strategy and to execute it. Democrats tend to either chase the market or ignore the market when they should be driving the market."

Kevin has identified a major problem with the political efforts of the Democratic leadership: utter incompetence at forming and shaping public opinion. Jackifus has touched on why they're so bad at this: a complete and thorough cluelessness about the value and importance of marketing.

The reason that Republicans have been far more adroit than Democrats in framing public opinion is not just because the major media are heavily biased in their direction. Republicans, drawn as they are from and/or representative of the business and corporate classes, instinctively embrace the necessity of marketing. To them, it's simply a necessary strategic tool in the business world. And they understand that theater is a vital component of marketing. That's why you have Newt Gingrich leading the GOP onto the Capitol steps to blather about the "Contract With America" with all the attendant media coverage. It was a cheap stunt, but Gingrich knew what he wanted in the big picture sense and understood how to go about making it happen.

The ridiculous circus surrounding the MoveOn ad is a more recent example showing how the GOP understands the power of theater in service of a marketing goal, which in this case is the furtherance of Bush's policies in Iraq. This is aided by demonizing the opposition, which is what the censure is all about.

Democrats by contrast are more representative of the academic, labor, and non-profit communities, many of whose members harbor an inherent suspicion of marketing as a fundamentally dishonest and fraudulent enterprise not worthy of right-thinking people. That gets you boring but intelligent position papers and reasoned arguments that succeed only in preaching to the already converted. They don't understand that marketing is fundamentally a strategic planning endeavor with specific goals and tactics for reaching them. It's neither good or bad; that comes from the purposes marketing is put to, and how it's done.

Harry Reid is all too representative of the Dem leadership in DC: he doesn't seem to have a strategic vision of what to do or where to go, much less the ability to figure out how to get there. That's a big reason why he's a singularly impotent, ineffective, and just plain flaccid majority leader.

Posted by: bluestatedon on September 27, 2007 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

"The first step is to understand it (public opinion)." Ahhh...no. The first step is to have a very clear idea of what you want to achieve. (The Republicans do.) The second step is to create a clear, concise, emotionally-based, stone-simple way of making your case (i.e. "Up or down vote" "Smoking gun/mushroom cloud" "Gore invented the Internet") Third, get EVERYONE -- wingnut media, Drudge, politicians, cable bloviators, columnists -- to BLAST THE PUBLIC OVER AND OVER AGAIN until you win. (Perfect example -- moveon.org).

The Republicans meet once a week to execute this strategy. This isn't hard. Why don't the Dems do this???

Okay, here's where to start. S-Chip. "Health care isn't a financial issue -- it's a MORAL ISSUE. KIDS NEED HEALTH CARE." Repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat.

Unfortunately, this strategy takes guts.

Posted by: planetniner on September 27, 2007 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Another way of understanding my point about teamwork is to see it as an extension of message discipline.

Politicians, both Republican and Democratic, understand the importance of message discipline within a given campaign for a given candidate. Everybody associated with that campaign must stay on message at all times.

What the Republicans seem to have grasped but Democrats haven't is how important message discipline is across an entire party.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 27, 2007 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is liberals care and are influenced by things like facts. We're fundamentally honest (and naive) that way.

So it's hard for us to imagine people not looking at the facts and coming to the most likely conclusion the facts point to.

Posted by: MNPundit on September 27, 2007 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they all read "The Virtue of Selfishness" by Ayn Rand.
Selfishness is NOT a virtue.

"Numerous prominent individuals have acknowledged that Rand greatly influenced their lives, including: Harry Binswanger, Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, James Clavell, Edward Cline, Chris Cox, Mark Cuban, Paul DePodesta, Steve Ditko, Terry Goodkind, Allan Gotthelf, Alan Greenspan, Hugh Hefner, Erika Holzer, John Hospers, Angelina Jolie, David Kelley, Billie Jean King, Anton LaVey, Rush Limbaugh, Frank Miller, Leonard Peikoff, Ronald Reagan, George Reisman, John Ridpath, Robert Ringer, Tracey Ross, Kay Nolte Smith, Tara Smith, John Stossel, Margaret Thatcher, Clarence Thomas, Vince Vaughn, and many others"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand

Posted by: slanted tom on September 27, 2007 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "Public opinion. That's what matters, and we have to get better at changing it. The first step is to understand it."

Lesson One: Public opinion is both fickle and malleable, and any politician who allows it to drive policy discussions is courting serious trouble.

Lesson Two: Political leadership requires a greater effort beyond ensuring that your name is embossed at the top of the letterhead. Don't seek high office if you harbor a propensity to look like an animal in the headlights during times of decision.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 28, 2007 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Might wanna avoid stupid, badly thought out TV ads that do nothing but distract, or worse, give the Republicans an excuse to change the subject when the media and public opinion are going your way.....jus a thought......

Posted by: Flamingo on September 28, 2007 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans have long played the emotional [Luntz-ian] card. Children are going to die! Mushroom Clouds Smoking Gun! The caliphate resurging! Kinda like read worldnetdaily.com The Sky is always falling!!

The GOP does not want their base of voters to think rationally [and for the most part they dont] whereas the Democrats, for the most part, do.

I think crisis management sucks, as a rule, but its effective. So....what trumps fear factor, screeching politics?

Posted by: Ya Know.... on September 28, 2007 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Public opinion. Public opinion. Public opinion. That's what matters, and we have to get better at changing it. The first step is to understand it.


The Democrats voted to condem MoveOn. They passed the FISA bill. They have given Bush everything he wanted.

So just who is this "we."

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on September 28, 2007 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Don't Democrats understand that the GOP is dead for all praticle purposes? I know it's hard to see when your own candadates are such losers, but JESUS CHRIST can we look at the other side for a moment???? Fucking Fred Thompson is the GOP's idea of a savior? That really makes me laugh.
So what if the Democrats are a bunch of pussies? Let's first kick the GOP to hell and then see what happens. Maybe Dems will start to behave a little differently when they see how much people fucking hate the GOP team. Maybe they will finally grow a backbone.

Posted by: kokblok on September 28, 2007 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

> Public opinion. Public opinion. Public opinion.
> That's what matters, and we have to get better at
> changing it. The first step is to understand it.

snip
> Are we complete morons?
> No, don't answer that.

Posted by: uy on September 28, 2007 at 4:14 AM | PERMALINK

harry: Making up things out of thin air now isn't going to help.


NOW he tells us...

D'OH!

Posted by: G.W. & the DICK on September 28, 2007 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

Dems always complain, "why doesn't the [media / politicians / pundits / public] talk about X?"

The problem with this is it's too passive. Whatever the current outrage or talking point is, SOMEONE ELSE needs to talk about it?

WRONG WRONG WRONG.

In this, at least, the media "rules" are clear. When pundits and politicians and blogs talk about X, "The Talk About X" is a story, and then other side is forced to respond. If we want our stories in the MSM, we need to flog them like the Right. One post or story is not enough - keep coming back to it.

AND, it HAS to get picked up and supported by the political leadership. They HAVE to be part of the conversation. They cannot pretend to be above it.

It's simple.

If you want people to talk about X, you have to talk about X.

============

Politicians are uncomfortable following someone else's story and strategy.

On the right, the top-down system has an advantage: message control. Elite pundits, caller-screened talk radio, no-comment blogs - the message is focused and chosen. The leadership on the right is VERY good at making sure that the stories that snowball out of the right-wing media are the ones that the leadership wants to talk about.

On the left, by contrast, open dialogue means that the topics are chosen and framed by the community - and Dem politicians can only react. Which they are uncomfortable doing, because they lose message control.

Messages on the right tend to be centrally planned in places like AEI and Heritage. "Studies" are written to support them, "facts" found to confirm them, then heavily focus-grouped into pithy sound-bites. But the advantage to the Left is that the messages that emerge from the community will ALWAYS be stronger: open source fact-checking, with the best arguments and emotional appeals naturally rising to the top.

Dem politicians need to TRUST the online and activist community, not run away from it. They would lose some message control, but the messages will be far more powerful.

Posted by: EthanS on September 28, 2007 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

"The Republican version would've been to spend 6 months telling people that kids are GOING TO DIE RIGHT NOW UNLESS THIS BILL PASSES and beating the Democrats into submission."

It sounds like a signal-to-noise ratio problem. There are so many signals out there, you don't get anything across unless you yell louder. Reminds me of when the US government limited the power of AM radio stations a long time back, but the Mexican government didn't. It was easier to find Mexican broadcasts to listen to - that is, if you wanted to. Maybe if there were only 4 or 5 channels on teevee to chose from instead of 200+, things would clear up.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 28, 2007 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, the nights either driving or working and listening to Del Rio, Texas - Of course, that was only the mailing address for XERA and their transmitters across the border.

Of course, had to hear a few AMENS and hall-a-loos thrown in on occasion. But, it kept you awake.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 28, 2007 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Lmao, I'd imagine that the biggest problem is that most Democrats are corrupt, and held hostage by corporate interests. As such, they simply REFUSE to do the things required to sway public opinion.

Add to that the obvious bias towards republicans in the corporate media, and you have a scenario where democrats don't want to change the narrative, and the media wouldn't allow them to even if they wanted to.

And Kevin Drum is still idiot if he believes the Public rallied behind the war this summer.

Posted by: Soullite on September 28, 2007 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

While the Dems need to be smarter, I don't want a liberal Karl Rove. That's a huge mistake.

Public opinion has shifted in favor of liberalism on a lot of issues. The Republican media machine has probably encouraged that shift, for a number of reasons.

For one thing, the people who get their cues from that machine think *everyone* loves the Iraq War except leftist traitors, *Everyone* hates immigrants and gays and wants to kick them out of the country. Only hippies don't want to invade Iran. So on a lot of issues the Republicans are holding a pair of 2's but their news media is telling them it's a straight flush. They over-play their hand every time.


For another thing, after years of hearing Republican BS, a lot of independents have caught on to the fact that Republicans...are full of BS. Their machine has "jumped the shark" and is just as likely to make people question a conservative narrative as subscribe to it.


Petraeus didn't make a dent on public opinion in Iraq. The news media and the Dems may not have gotten any smarter. The public has, though.

Posted by: Chris on September 28, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

The best description of the Democrats' public realtions strategy is a circular firing squad. They are hopeless.....

Posted by: jerseymissouri on September 28, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Attack the media for its bias!!

Why do no Democrats ever try this?? It certainly worked well for the Republicans!

Posted by: captcrisis on September 28, 2007 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Public opinion. Public opinion. Public opinion. That's what matters, and we have to get better at changing it. The first step is to understand it.

Too much adherence to public opinion can lead to weathervaning, i.e., pointing wherever the wind is blowing at that moment. Public opinion mostly matters at the moment when they walk into a voting booth.

Posted by: SJRSM on September 28, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK
…Don't assume it's higher motives. harry at 7:00 PM
Don't worry, chum; no one ascribes higher motives to any Republican, nor do they ever evince any.
…Public opinion mostly matters at the moment when they walk into a voting booth. SJRSM at 12:14 PM
Sure, that's why Republicans redouble their smear-and-fear propaganda every couple of years. Posted by: Mike on September 28, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Public opinion mostly matters at the moment when they walk into a voting booth.
Posted by: SJRSM

The opinions that really matter in between elections are the those of the donors. Can't get elected without millions and billions. You position yourself to get their dollars, then use their dollars to win public opinion.

Posted by: SJRSM on September 28, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK
Public opinion mostly matters at the moment when they walk into a voting booth.

That may be a major payoff, but public opinion matters every time people talk to each other about politics, every time people might consider donating to a political cause, every time people consider whether or not to actively support, grudgingly comply with, or actively resist a government policy, and at a number of other times as well.

If you want the payoff at the voting booth, you need to address all the rest as well.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 28, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, the nights either driving or working and listening to Del Rio, Texas - Of course, that was only the mailing address for XERA and their transmitters across the border.

Of course, had to hear a few AMENS and hall-a-loos thrown in on occasion. But, it kept you awake.
Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 28, 2007 at 9:47 AM
------
Back then the radio preachers weren't on 24/7 on one or two stations out of three dozen, it was a *radio program* that was scheduled in the middle of the night. They were often personal and poetic. Even if I didn't always agree with them, they made for interesting listening when driving around in the pasture on the occasional purplish moonlit night-especially with the AM signal fading in and out and phase-shifting and all. I heard that David Byrne based "Once in a Lifetime" on an AM late-night radio sermon.
And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 28, 2007 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Washington Monthly,

I'm a diehard fan of your site for and applaud your efforts to put as much truth as possible out there.
I wanted to pass this along for you to check out:
www.woundedwarriorproject.org
It's a non profit that, as they say:
try to raise the awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, to help
severely injured service members aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet
their needs.

They've been instrumental in getting some great legislation passed and alot of other awesome stuff that helps injured
soldiers.

Keep up the good work!

Terry

Posted by: Terry Martin on October 2, 2007 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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