Winning Progressive Message & Strategy

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Hillary’s Opening Debate Statement

Traditionally, debates are mostly boring affairs, where we’re lucky to get a highlight or two.  But, we know what we’re getting, going in.  A couple of boxers who jab a little bit, and largely stick to the script, while answering questions the best they can.

Even though candidates aren’t afforded an opening statement anymore, they use their allotted time for their first answer to put the debate into the context they want.  In 2012, for example, the first question went to President Obama.  It was, how would he create jobs.

Here’s his answer:

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Trump’s New Message is a Winner. Here’s How Hillary Can Counteract It.

Donald Trump 9.0 was launched last night (or is it 10.0?  9.5? I lost track).

For a brief moment in time, fueled by a teleprompter filled with messaging from new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and campaign CEO, Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon, Trump had a narrative that finally worked.

To use a phrase of Trump’s, I hated to just give him credit for something, “believe me.”

Now, if he regresses to his usual self, he’ll say something horrible and the campaign will be caught up in a whirlwind of controversy.  But what if he doesn’t?  This new campaign message can work, quite effectively.  So, what should Hillary do?

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The Op-Ed Bernie Didn’t Write, But Should Have

Yesterday, Bernie Sanders was given the chance to write an op-ed in the New York Times.

He had a golden opportunity to write a campaign-changing piece, and he whiffed. His piece focused on Brexit as a warning to Democrats to take seriously the negative economic impact of the global economy. Essentially, it was the same campaign speech he gave 1,000 times, recycled, using Brexit as the hook. It was largely ignored — not because he doesn’t have a point — but because he offered up nothing new.

Here is the op-ed he should have written. Here is the op-ed that would have made an impact on the debate. It would have given him new relevancy, and stature, as he continues to try to reform the Democratic Party.

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Warren’s “Secret” Selling Point

Elizabeth Warren.  Massachusetts liberal, right?

Extreme left, isn’t she?

These are how many politically aware people have branded her.  And Lord knows that Democratic consultants have.

But Senator Warren has a background that most people forget about – if they even knew about it, at all.

And that secret would be her strongest selling point as a VP candidate for Hillary Clinton…

Even through Bill Clinton’s administration, Elizabeth Warren was a Republican.

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Progressives Rising

Piggybacking off my post from yesterday, Sahil Kapur at Talking Points Memo shows some other key victories for the “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party” in the new Congress.

The Democrats’ progressive wing is enjoying a renaissance since the party’s crushing defeat in the 2014 midterm election, chalking up victories and capturing the attention of congressional leaders on causes near and dear to their hearts.

Some of the change is structural. The election wiped out red state senators and House members in less progressive districts, reducing the new minority party to a more ideologically cohesive unit. The loss of the Democrats’ Senate majority also breaks a four-year holding pattern in which leaders had to cut deals with the conservative-dominated House, making it somewhat easier for them to stand or fall on principle.

“It’s very, very liberating,” said one Democratic Senate leadership aide.

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There’s Something Happening Here….

When I worked for Howard Dean, in the 2004 election, he used to like to quote Harry Truman in his stump speech:

“If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time.”

The point, when Howard Dean said it, was that far too many Democrats were trying to be like President Bush, in 2003, when the President’s popularity was soaring, but Dean was offering a real alternative.  Yet, it could just as easily apply to the many Democrats, especially in the South, who became nearly indistinguishable from Republicans, not just on issue, but in tone.

Lo and behold, the slow burn of so called Blue Dogs completed in 2014, and voters voted for genuine Republicans, across the board.

Finally, it seems like Democrats are finally taking the right lesson away from these losses.  In the past, they always seemed to answer defeat by moving more to the right, assuming the country wanted conservatism.  But, in the past few days, it is becoming apparent that, finally, Democrats realize they need to offer a real choice – a progressive choice.

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Is It Time for de Blasio to Be Firm With Police?

This shouldn’t have been about politics.

Two cops viciously gunned down, by a crazed gunman, looking for any reason to kill.  A tragedy. A time for a family to grieve and a City to support them.  And then, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association laid down the biggest of political gauntlets, by explicitly putting the blood of dead police on the hands of Mayor Bill de Blasio, daring him to even utter any protest.

To be clear, PBA President Pat Lynch never liked de Blasio.  Hated his campaign promise to end “stop and frisk.”  Hated the Mayor for daring to suggest that police, like other unions in the city, accept a temporary freeze in pay, to get the City’s finances under control.  But, with a tidal wave of an election, that brought de Blasio into office with a 45 point victory, came a fairly weak bargaining position for Lynch.

Enter the horrific deaths of Officers Liu and Ramos.
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MESSAGE AND STRATEGY MEMO: The Dangers of the Jingling Keys

More than ever, we’re a short attention-span society.

I can see you reaching to click over to Facebook or BuzzFeed, already.  Stick with me.  This is worth it, if you want to improve your messaging and overall communications game.

Nowhere is this shortening attention span a worse development than in progressive political messaging.  It hurts us from within, and from the outside.  I call it the “Dangers of the Jingling Keys.”

More and more, people are like cats.  We’ll play and focus on a ball of yarn, but forget all about it when jingling keys are shimmering above us.  In fact, while writing that sentence, I got distracted by an article about Uber and another one about Mark Hamill returning to Star Wars.  So, none of us is really immune to the jingling keys.

Politics, especially given the sharpness of microtargeting, is getting more and more full of jingling keys.  Noam Chomsky explains how this can be used by outside interests:

“The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction which is to divert public attention from important issues and changes determined by the political and economic elites, by the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information…”

Now, Chomsky is writing about how the media uses this tactic, but it really can (and has) been used by a wide variety of interests.

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