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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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Mary Landrieu lost, and nobody cares

There are a lot of reasons that Senator Mary Landrieu got creamed in her runoff election, by Republican Representative Bill Cassidy.

But I think the most compelling reason is encapsulated in the reaction from Democrats, which is one big collective “yawn.”

Heck, even on the most active political blogs on the left, folks were left wondering if there was even a run-off election this weekend, because the blog wasn’t providing updates. When your base doesn’t care, you’re going to lose.

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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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