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How the Left can better market its message

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Don Smith       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   17 comments

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Executive Summary

Superior marketing and media access allowed conservatives to control the narrative about taxes and government.

It is not within our power to have much influence at the national level, but we can ameliorate the problem locally, in various states: adopt standard, shared, community-owned websites where Democrats and progressives can communicate and coordinate. Each website could evolve to be a source where policymakers, reporters, and the public come for the progressive perspective on news and issues. We needn't necessarily create new websites; standardizing upon existing ones may work.

Brief Analysis

The disappointing outcome of the 2010 general election was a result of various factors: the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, an influx of corporate cash into the elections, superior organization and party discipline on the Right, and weak leadership, messaging, and media access on the Left.

This is true both nationally and in Washington State, where the defeat of the income tax initiative, I-1098, and the passage of I-1053 (requiring a 2/3 majority in the legislature to raise taxes) underscore the failure of the Left to explain the role of government and the unfairness of the current tax system. (This article concentrates on Washington State, but the concepts no doubt apply to other states.)

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The middle class continues to vote for candidates and initiatives that transfer wealth and power to the super-rich.

The Divided Left
(Image by Don Smith)
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The Left's inability to market its message is largely due to the conservative bias of much of the news media. The Seattle Times was solidly against I-1098. Suburban and rural newspapers are even more conservative. The downsizing of the Seattle P-I dealt a severe blow to our ability to get our message out.

But the failure of the Left to market its message is also due to disorganization on the Left.

There are left-leaning news outlets and websites such as AM1090, Real Change News, the Stranger, FUSE, Washblog, slog, publicola, Horse's Ass, Majority Rules, Puget Sound Liberals, and NPI. Plus there are numerous lefty advocacy groups (MoveOn, PDA, DFA, anti-war groups, SNOW, health care reform groups, EOI, environmental groups, women's rights groups....). But no website or news source is widely adopted, and most of the existing ones are controlled by one or a few people. The various sites and groups compete for support.

There is great value in having such diversity, and I have no desire to create a monolithic organization that would stifle dissent. Furthermore, the Left doesn't need yet another organization. But the lack of media focus greatly dilutes the Left's message and makes it hard to speak with an audible, coherent voice to lawmakers, the press, and the public.

Numerous state level races were decided by a few percent of votes or less. Better marketing may have made the difference between victory and defeat.

Nationally, Obama failed to hold Republicans accountable and failed to lead. He let the conservatives control the narrative. He blew a great chance to set the record straight, make a clean break with the past, and teach the public about who's really to blame for the mess we're in. Instead, he protected and coddled conservatives, surrounded himself with Bush-era advisers, and repeatedly angered his base. He blew a once-in-a-lifetime chance to expose and end corruption, corporatism, and militarism.

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Republicans never compromised. Obama only compromised. And so his major accomplishments (such as saving the country from a depression and reforming health care and Wall Street) were corrupted hodgepodges for which he failed even to get credit.

In short, once in office, Obama didn't defend and market a Democratic, progressive approach towards good government.

So now most voters blame the recession and their woes on the Democrats' alleged wasteful government spending.

The GOP coalition involves an unholy alliance of neocons, libertarians, social conservatives, and corrupt capitalists -- such that the coalition partners disagree on many issues. Yet they coordinate well and often vote in unison. The Left is much more ideologically united, but they don't cooperate so well.

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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See and for my writing, my (more...)

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