Where are the Democratic talking points?
Look at all those freeloaders!
Who’s in charge of coming up with Democratic talking points?
As far as I can tell, nobody. Oh, James Carville used to be a heavy contributor, but not so much lately. So, who?
I have read numerous articles about this or that Republican figure inventing or popularizing a particular conservative phrase or talking point (think Frank Luntz, Newt Gingrich, and of course Ronald Reagan). Reagan, for example, popularized “A rising tide lifts all boats” and thus put an entirely new, and very positive, spin on the old phrase “trickle down economics.” He also popularized “supply-side” economics, which again sounded very practical, efficient, and positive when contrasted to “demand-side” economics, even though the first term meant “let’s help businesses produce goods more cheaply” (admittedly a fair-sounding goal) while the second meant “let’s get more money into the hands of people so they can buy more things.” What, exactly, makes the first phrase superior to the second? Ahh. . .spin! Why do Republicans seem to be so good at it, while Democrats never seem to do anything except react to the Republican points? How can Republicans use the word “freedom!” so effectively when it helps businesses and gun owners, but Democrats get no traction with the same word when used in a social context? Is it because (horrible thought) they have conceded that “freedom” is a word that belongs to conservatives? Let us hope not!
Let’s take the ever-popular (among conservatives) “half of Americans pay no income tax.”
Wow! Half of Americans are freeloaders, riding on the backs of the “productive“ half. I once heard Rush Limbaugh extolling the virtue of state lotteries, precisely because the poorer among us buy most of the tickets. That way, explained Rush, they are at least doing something in the way of paying taxes. I’m sure most of his audience that day nodded in appreciative approval.
Oh, sure, I’ve heard plenty of reaction to such nonsense, but that’s precisely the problem. When you’re always reacting to the other side, they have the advantage. Why can’t Democrats do what the Republicans do so well, and reframe some of the popular talking points? Why can’t we start shouting:
“HALF OF AMERICANS DON’T EARN ENOUGH MONEY TO OWE ANY FEDERAL INCOME TAX! THAT’S SHAMEFUL!”
And then why not follow that up with:
“47% OF AMERICANS ARE SO MIRED IN POVERTY THAT THEY QUALIFY FOR GOVERNMENT AID! HOW CAN THE RICHEST NATION IN ALL HISTORY ALLOW THE VERY RICHEST PEOPLE TO KEEP SO MUCH OF THE WEALTH FOR THEMSELVES AND NOT FOR REGULAR AMERICANS??”
Note that the point is not exclusively about income and taxes. That is only an illustration of the larger need to find ways to go on the offensive instead of always being on the defensive. Here’s another example: “Pro-life” vs. “Pro-choice.” The first term may be so disingenuous as to be positively dishonest, and yet look how effective it has been for Evangelicals over the years. How could any decent person be against life? And how can we support the right to “choose death”?
But wait a minute. There is an alternative. Why is nobody using it? Democrats could be for “religious freedom of conscience.” OK, the phrase might make some Democrats uncomfortable, since so much wrong is being done in the name of “religious freedom.” But here’s the thing: “Freedom of conscience” means precisely the same thing as “freedom of choice,” but the former phrase has a highly positive connotation among Evangelicals, while the latter does not. So why not phrase every pro-choice campaign ad in terms of “freedom of conscience”? Leave out the word “choice” entirely, and always refer to “termination of pregnancy” rather than “abortion”? Never say “a fetus is just a mass of tissue.” (Is your grandma’s body lying in a coffin just a “mass of tissue” now that the spirit has departed? Yes. But would you say so out loud?) Instead, say that a fetus is “a physical body being prepared to receive a spirit at some point.” This is absolutely acceptable Christian theology, as well as being an “on the offense” statement rather than being a “defensive” answer.
I could mention other examples, but it all comes down to stopping conservatives from bludgeoning Democrats with cute, catchy, psychologically effective phrases (such as “death panels”), while doing nothing to turn the tables (ask yourself why “deplorables” backfired so badly).
What are some other ways that liberals could “turn the talking points tables” on conservatives, ways that real candidates in actual campaigns could use?
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