Winning Progressive Message & Strategy

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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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What Trump Refuses To Say On Shootings Says It All

It wasn’t until the Associated Press asked him in an interview to address bias against African Americans that Donald Trump even acknowledged that Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were black.

That’s no mistake.

Throughout the days since the tragic murders of Castile and Sterling, and the brutal slayings of heroic police officers in Dallas, Trump’s statements have been carefully crafted to avoid any inference that black Americans face any kind of special circumstance when it comes to their safety.  That includes avoiding any mention that they were black, at all.

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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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Jeb Bush’s Ted Kennedy Moment

Does Jeb Bush really want to be President?  We don’t know.  We can’t get inside of his head. Does it seem like Jeb Bush wants to be President?  Absolutely not.

For years, people have talked about the Bushes as the Republican Kennedys.  With Jeb’s answer, on Iraq, to FOX News, he may have just become the Bush’s Teddy.

In his answer to Megyn Kelly’s question, “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion [of Iraq]?” Bush answered a resounding yes.  Stunned at the backlash against that answer, from even conservative commentators, Bush quickly backtracked in a quickly scheduled second interview, with Sean Hannity, saying he “misinterpreted the question” and that “I don’t know what that decision would have been.”

Wow.

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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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Conservatives Are Ready for Warren?

I don’t think this is reverse psychology, or some trick. But some conservatives are now begrudgingly admitting that they find some appeal in Elizabeth Warren’s message.

In particular, this piece by far-right columnist Rod Dreher caught my attention:

But I hope that Sen. Warren will run for president in 2016 to force a national conversation on the Washington-Wall Street power nexus….

A populist who talks like Elizabeth Warren and really means it is a Democrat a conservative like me would consider voting for, despite her social liberalism. As Phyllis Schlafly said back in 1964, in defending Goldwater against the Establishment Republican Nelson Rockefeller, a contest between Warren and Clinton, and a contest between Warren and just about any Republican would give the country a choice, not an echo.

He’s not the only one.  From HotAir to RedState, online bastions of extreme conservatism were actually drawn to Elizabeth Warren’s non-conservative message (and Nancy Pelosi’s, too).

Again, I don’t see this as reverse psychology, or some trick to get Democrats to nominate Warren over Hillary Clinton.  If nothing else, the writers and blogs above are true believers in what they say, no matter how much I may normally disagree with them.  So, I think they’re being genuine, here.

Not so long ago, I wrote about how Warren’s opening argument – her raison d’etre – absolutely would have appeal in the reddest parts of the South.  It’s progressive, but it has the ability to appeal beyond ideological lines.

I think the developing feelings among the online right for Warren’s core message give more credence to that notion.


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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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MESSAGE MEMO: Defining “them”

There’s no doubt that Elizabeth Warren is person who elicits the most electric response from progressives. She speaks loudly and clearly on the economic issues that progressives most care about, and already is showing that her straight-forward, no-BS dissection of the issues has the power to move an entire caucus.

But this video, released by MoveOn.org in support of an effort to draft her into the presidential race, highlights her extremely smart messaging, and a template progressives need to remember, moving forward.

Right at the start of the video, she corrects a flaw in what, too often, is the progressive message:

“Government does work. It works really well for those who can hire armies of lobbyists. It works really well for those who have armies of lawyers. It works really well for those who can make big campaign contributions. It’s just not working for American families.”

Note in the “us” vs. “them” argument, who she frames as the “them.” It isn’t “the rich.” It isn’t even “corporations.” It’s those who use their money and power to further rig the system in their own favor, at the detriment of our families.

It’s a small, but extremely important, qualifier.

I was reminded of this piece, from earlier in the year, in which a former conservative voter explains why he constantly voted against his own economic interests – for the party “of the rich.”

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STRATEGY MEMO: GOP Might Literally Lock Obama Out of Capitol

When I say some Republicans want to “literally” lock President Obama out of the Capitol, I don’t mean “literally,” in the Joe-Biden-sense.  I mean it in the Oxford Dictionary sense.

That’s right – there is a growing chorus within the newly-minted GOP Majority to refuse the President’s request to deliver the State of the Union in the Capitol.

Last week, shortly before Thanksgiving, the idea that congressional Republicans might block President Obama from delivering a State of the Union address first crossed the political world’s radar. The New York Times published a quote from a prominent figure in conservative media pushing the argument; Breitbart News ran a column endorsing the move; and Politico noted unnamed “GOP aides and lawmakers” who like the idea.

Should the President try to come, I reckon it would involve closed, locked doors that would be ordered to stay shut, because if you’re going to go nuts, go fully nuts.

So, what should the White House do?

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