At the annual Democratic Party meeting there should be a mandatory seminar on communication. Not properly communicating has cost the Democrats dearly. It was a big nail in the coffin on health care. People couldn’t understand things like “health exchanges” or “public option”. Even the one simple word left a bad feeling with voters - “mandates”. Democrats tried to make mandates sound like a good thing, but you can’t change how people feel when hearing that word.
Now we are seeing the failures of communication spread beyond healthcare:
Nearly three out of four Americans think that at least half of the money spent in the federal stimulus plan has been wasted, according to a new national poll.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday morning also indicates that 63 percent of the public feels that projects in the plan were included for purely political reasons and will have no economic benefit, with 36 percent saying those projects will benefit the economy.
Twenty-one percent of people questioned in the poll say nearly all the money in the stimulus has been wasted, with 24 percent feeling that most money has been wasted and another 29 percent saying that about half has been wasted. Twenty-one percent say that only a little has been wasted and 4 percent feel that no stimulus dollars have been wasted.
Again the Republicans took advantage here. They used key phrases like “government welfare” and that strikes anger in voters, while Democrats go out and get to technical trying to defend the stimulus.
American’s understand catch phrases better than anything. Look at “death panels”. It was a flat out lie, but because it was such a small and catchy phrase, it ended up causing damage.
Here’s a good example of a “what should have been”. Take the Bush tax cuts. Republicans sold them as just “tax cuts”. Ohhh that leaves a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Democrats referred to them as “the Bush tax cuts”. Oh – Bush gave us that warm fuzzy feeling. Instead Democrats should have come up with a catchy phrase like “millionaire welfare”. Now you are throwing that evil “welfare” term in there and associating it with the rich. Talk about sparking outrage.
Or how about using the stimulus example. Democrats are guilty of trying to over explain it. Dumb it down some. Call it the “economy safety net”. Yeah the economy is going to continue to fall, but this safety net is the difference between a light bounce at the bottom or a fatal splat into the hard, concrete floor below.
For Democrats to lead successfully they have to learn how to dumb things down so Americans can understand them. I’m not saying Americans are dumb in nature, but in our very busy lives we just don’t have time to investigate everything and figure out what the meaning of that word or phrase really is when put in context. Democrats really need to find their own Frank Luntz.