Karl Rove spent Sunday advising Democrats to win their election with a positive message. Should Democrats fall for this trick, this being Karl Rove, God help us all.
Democrats gained control of the Congress in 2006 because the Republicans were besieged with corruption scandals and sex scandals. For a brief moment, Republicanism was synonymous with illicit yachts and scandalous text messages. Yuck.
Essentially, the prevailing Political Narrative was temporarily obliterated. The Political Narrative is (and was then) that Democrats are elitist Epicurean Pagans driving Volvos, aided and abetted in their attacks on America by the media; Republicans, on the other hand, are God-fearing, populist counter-insurgents, determined to eradicate elitism and enforce the Constitution. See Geoffry Nunberg's Talking Right for more on the Political Narrative.
The Political Narrative is alive and well in 2008, against all odds that it would work for the 28th year in a row--minus one or two. Democrats are hopelessly optimistic that a rational positive message about the economy will win the day.
Apparently, Democrats never took a class in advertising, nor read the works of Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's nephew. Up until 1905, the year Freud published Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Western theory postulated that humans relied on reason to evaluate logical arguments and draw rational conclusions. These days, only Democrats believe this. Republicans, always the better business people, know otherwise.
Freud was convinced that people are not rational at all but guided, rather, by an inner-turmoil of instincts and desires. If you want to move people to vote for a candidate, Democrats (David Axlerod, John Kerry, Al Gore), you don't tap into what they say they want, you tap into what they really want.
Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays (the grandfather of spin), applied his uncle's theory in marketing. The Beech-Nut Packing Company approached Bernays in the mid-1920s and asked him to help them improve sales of their primary commodity, bacon. At the time, many Americans consumed a light breakfast, coffee and toast, on the run. Think of coffee and toast as the Democrats in the good old days (before Reagan). Think of pork as the Republicans.
We know that pork is relatively unhealthy: high in fat, high in cholesterol, etc. We also know that Republicans are unhealthy: high in fat, high in corruption-all. Doesn't matter. People will buy it if it's marketed with the right narrative.
Bernays set about his project by asking doctors if they thought a light breakfast or a hearty breakfast was healthier. A majority said a hearty breakfast was healthier. Bernays used the results of this poll to market bacon and eggs as a hearty, healthy breakfast--a narrative. Bacon and eggs are good for you, the narrative goes. Toast and coffee doesn't cut it.
That was in the 1920s. Bacon and eggs are still a staple breakfast. Suddenly 28 years of Republican control doesn't seem so long. Yikes!
Bernays never wrote a book explaining the steps to destroy an established narrative or replace it with a more appealing one, but that's why I am on this earth. :)
Democrats have two options: destroy the Political Narrative (and quickly) or replace it with a more persuading Political Narrative (impossible with 53 days left until November 4th). Their current tactic is out-dated...like it expired in 1905.
DESTROYING THE POLITICAL NARRATIVE
If Senator Barack Obama wants to beat Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin--and there is no question he is running against both--he must depress turnout among conservatives, who out-number liberals. To be clear, conservatives in this case are defined not by ideology, but by their buy-in to the conservative political narrative--which means they are pro-hunting, family-based, etc.
A core selling point of the conservative narrative is that it is attractive: wholesome, romantic, pro-American. Remind you of Bernays? Republicanism is the hearty breakfast. This selling point is balanced primarily upon moral ideals.
Therefore, corruption, immorality and especially sexual immorality are anathema to the subscriber of the conservative narrative. They taint the product. They ruin the product. To the Democrats' advantage, corruption and immorality still taint the Republican brand from 2006. Republicans have dodged scrutiny here by focusing Americans on the short-comings of Democrats, essentially diverting attention from their own baggage--all the things that made them revolting just two years ago.