Message Discipline In Politics

I’d like to point to an article I read today at Political Animal that discussed message discipline in politics. Go read it, I can wait.

The last several weeks of negotiations have have provided a good example of one of the left’s biggest weaknesses: message discipline. Ben Bernanke came up with the phrase “fiscal cliff,” and it stuck. This phrase is deeply misleading—indeed, it was probably deliberately exaggerated—so liberals tried to come up with a more accurate catchphrase. They tried, but failed for lack of unity. Paul Waldman called it the “austerity trap.” Chris Hayes called it the “fiscal curb.” Paul Krugman called it the “austerity bomb.” Ezra Klein, most notably, made a major push for “austerity crisis,” but even the mighty Wonkblog couldn’t get everyone to agree.

This is an easy pit for liberals to step in. We prize accuracy, we like to explore rhetoric and meaning (a tendency which in its fullest academic incarnation borders on the pathological), and we don’t respect authority that much. (Or less charitably, we think we’re all special snowflakes, who are all equally good at sloganeering, and react with knee-jerk hostility to the slightest whiff of hierarchy.)

I don’t think liberals should necessarily suppress those instincts. A tendency to quarrel in one situation might save an ally from a major mistake in a different circumstance. Furthermore, it is important for one’s catchphrases to describe things reasonably accurately.

This has been dissected many times over the past few years. The message needs to be concise and have valuable weight. The GOP Word Soup is what we are stuck with so many times. And what I get from my pals that aren’t political junkies are questions on what exactly is the “fiscal cliff.” Everyone who knows politics knows that this is just another example of political theater.

What we need to do is just get on the damned horse which I wrote about this spring.

I believe that we also tend to complicate certain issues when we don’t have to. There are only a couple of ways to get on a horse but we tend to spend a lot of time talking about the best and most effective way of getting up on the saddle that we delay the journey.

We need to just get on the horse.

When everyone is shouting about the strategy and blaming and yelling, it can become noisy where if I were the horse, I would just shrug my horse shoulders and walk back toward the barn. I believe that people want to move, they are waiting because they need leaders and not people talking about the horse.

You get what I’m saying.

What we have facing us in this state right now is news that is all over the place. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who used the term job creators a whole lot during the campaign season when he was stumping for his buddies, is now targeting guns in parking lots as a high priority. Yep, that’s what we are hearing is that he has moved that legislation forward and we once again are talking about this. We are hearing about healthcare exchanges. We are seeing Gov. Bill Haslam still not deciding on much of anything. And model legislation from organizations such as ALEC is going to rear its ugly head once again during the next General Assembly. Education is on the table again and will remain so for the foreseeable future. It’s coming rather fast and furious when you get right down to it.

And we are seeing the language being molded from Word Soup. It’s just something to think about. One thing the democrats don’t need right now is trying to explain fuzzy based policy words that can not be clearly defined.

Message discipline isn’t a bad idea in this day and age.


2 comments for “Message Discipline In Politics

  1. December 7, 2012 at 5:45 am

    A conversation about messaging? Sweet. Words do matter.

    Did you ever see the year or so of blogging I did about messaging over at ?

  2. Mary Acito
    December 7, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Words are very important. For example, raising the rate on the amount earned that is over a “quarter of a million” has much more impact that “$250 thousand”. Most people don’t understand that not only do these folks still get the tax break on the amount under a quarter million, but a quarter of a million dollars ANNUALLY is a lot of money!
    Guns locked in your car in a parking lot protect no one, but the “easy access” of a gun when a person is irate, upset, or mentally ill can harm a lot of people. The gun in the trunk won’t save anybody because if somebody is threatenening or shooting, they’re not going to wait for the gun owner to get the gun, while allowing the irate person to have “easy access” to their gun in the parking lot is dangerous for everyone. The proposed gun law does just that – give the potential shooter easy access and makes it more likely that they can shoot and kill other people. Giving gun owners more access gives criminals more access.

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