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Message Randolph Holhut
DUMMERSTON, Vt. A friend of mine who has been in the Vermont House of Representatives for the past few years recently told me about a rule she has been telling her fellow Democrats to adhere to when describing an idea to constituents or the press.
It's the 27-9-3 rule no more than 27 words within a time frame no longer than nine seconds with no more than three concepts discussed in that time.
In other words, keep the message simple, clear and to the point and people will know what you are talking about.
We are now in an election year and it's time for liberals to hone the message and keep our stories straight. The 27-9-3 rule may seem excessively rigid, but it's a good exercise in disciplined thinking.
So here are some of what I think should be the Democratic Party's talking points for the 2006 elections. Use them and spread them around.
The Republicans are the party of corruption.
The Republicans steal from the poor to give to the rich.
The Republicans are the party of crony capitalism.
The Republicans reward incompetence and punish truthtellers.
The Republicans support a foreign policy of endless war and global domination.
The Republicans do not respect the Constitution and lie without consequence on issues of national security.
Now that you have some of the talking points, let's put them to use, applying the 27-9-3 rule.
The next time a Bush supporter talks about how great their president is, you can say, "The Republicans do not care about the environment, education, health care or anything else that doesn't involve tax cuts for the rich or blowing stuff up." (26 words)
If a Republican talks about integrity in politics, you can say, "It took the Democrats in Congress 50 years to become bloated and corrupt. It took the Republicans only 10 years to do likewise." (23 words).
If they persist, just say, "Jack Abramoff." (two words).
Message discipline is important. When Republicans talk about how much they care about minorities, you can say, "New Orleans."
When they talk about about homeland security, you can say, "Katrina."
When they talk about Bush's record in Iraq, you can say "war criminal."
Seriously though, there will be times when one will have to depart from the 27-9-3 rule. Fortunately, this will be for instances when Republican corruption and incompetence is so great that more than 27 words will be needed to explain it all.
The coming bonanza of the criminal trial of Enron masterminds Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, combined with the vast cesspool of corruption that is being revealed in the criminal proceedings against GOP uber-lobbyist Abramoff, will show Americans what happens when there are no brakes on crony capitalism.
The Bush administration is going to spin like mad to justify the spying, the torture, the secret prisons and countless violations of domestic and international law since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Our job will be to show that Republicans have made the world less safe and have allowed terrorism to flourish.
If liberals can't hang this sorry record around the necks of Republicans, we aren't trying hard enough.
It is not beyond possibility that Democrats can retake the Congress in 2006. Sure, there still is the possibility that the Bush administration is insane enough to launch an air attack against Iran's nuclear facilities. There are plenty of other tricks that Karl Rove has in his bag. But I still believe that an active, vigorous and focused attack on every Republican running for reelection can overcome anything the Bush Crime Family can throw at liberals.
This means that there should be a Democratic candidate in every race, no matter how remote the odds seem. Put Republicans on the defensive everywhere. Flood the phone lines to the right-wing talk shows. Write and e-mail every conservative publication early and often. Whenever any wing-nut pundit writes or says something offensive to common sense, call them out. Make every Republican sweat profusely and babble incoherently.
And if someone has a gross or two of porto-spines hanging around, ship them to Washington for the Democrats that are still lacking backbones. And remember that while ideological purity may be good, winning is better and that should be the only concern for liberals in 2006.
There is no longer any reason to fear the GOP slime machine. The tide of history is shifting in our favor. Victory is possible.
If the events of 2005 showed us anything, it is this. Despite going up against the most ruthless and evil politicians this nation has ever seen, Republicans are whiny punks who will curl up in a ball and cry when someone seriously takes them on.
From Enron and Abramoff and the exposure of the culture of corruption in Washington and corporate America, to spying and torture and the cavalier disregard for the Constitution by President Bush, to the well-documented incompetence of the Bush administration when comes to anything that doesn't involve tax cuts for the rich and blowing stuff up, there are enough issues to campaign on to ensure that Democrats can prevail in the 2006 election.
All it will take is courage. It's up to those of us outside the Beltway to support the folks who have the guts to take on the GOP bullies and to prod the wobbly ones to get into the fight.
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Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at
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