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Life Arts    H3'ed 8/14/20

From the Brain to the Ballot Box: Drew Westen on Effective Political Messaging

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Facts about Languages
Facts about Languages
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At today's Netroots Nation virtual conference, Drew Westen, professor of psychology at Emory University and well-received author, spoke about effective political messaging and what Democrats must do to improve their present practices, which often fall on deaf ears.

Westen drew up three guiding principles: 1) Know what networks you're activating; 2) Speak to people's values and emotions; and 3) Tell coherent, memorable stories.

Mail-in ballots go into the garbage, he said. In-person votes are counted, and then Putin decides which ones will count.

Progressives just aren't confronting Republican aggression. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) passed lacking essential components: Medicare for all and negotiations with pharmaceutical industries over drug prices. The people didn't like it and, for this reason, he said, the Democrats were voted out in 2010.

Citing from his previous book The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, he said that voters vote irrationally, from their guts, not on the issues. Obama won as a "charismatic vessel"; when his speeches descended to the "no drama" level, they were less well received.

Instead of being gentle and polite, progressives must be as aggressive as Republicans. Democrats [Westen seemed to merge progressives with Democrats in much of the presentation] and Republicans have different brains--a fact proved through clinical testing. Republicans are possessed of the fight or flight instinct and mostly fight. Democrats are cerebral, wrestling with ambiguities and nuances.

Democrats must not step back in the face of lying accusations by not dignifying them with responses, as Kerry did, faced with Trump's swift boating fables back in 2004. He lost 18 percent of the vote as a result. He should have defended himself instead, said Westen.

This time around, Trump has "othered" vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris, already denying the validity of her U.S. citizenship. Democrats must shout back, "We are a diverse society!"

Now the GOP campaign is also going after Latinx and black populations. Democrats should shout: "That's despicable! You can't continue as president!"

Trump can't stand being described as little. Relevant terminology should be hurled at him: his inability to consider the people's interests as a consistent policy is definitely "small" [among other things].

Trump's emulation of Hitler and Mussolini (he must have read a kiddy version of Mein Kampf), verging on Stalin should be branded as treachery, as should his aggressive efforts to close USPS.

Westen addressed the effects of words and expressions on audiences. We should avoid expressions like "the unemployed," which makes people nameless and faceless, but rather say "people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own." The term "people" arouses empathy. "The rich" arouses anger and should be retained--not "people with lots of money."

The term "underemployed" is misunderstood as not having enough work by choice or otherwise, when it actually refers to people who must work two or three jobs just to put food on the table.

"Medicaid recipients" implies handouts and passivity. The active voice should be used whenever possible.

The term "carbon emissions" is unfamiliar to many and should be replaced with "pollution that destroys our lungs and environments."

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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