Politics Is Both Message and Messaging

The most important paragraph in Isaiah Poole’s piece seems to me to be the following: “Here’s where the tragedy of Tuesday’s election results come into sharp relief. Republicans were more successful than Democrats in tapping into voters’ economic anxiety, even with their record of blocking the policy changes needed to address the causes of that anxiety.”

Slate  just ran an article by William Saletan titled “A Victory for the Left.” The article is ironic because it explains how a victory for the Left amounted to a decisive defeat for the Democrats.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

“Republicans won big in the 2014 elections. They captured the Senate and gained seats in the House.

“But they didn’t do it by running to the right. They did it, to a surprising extent, by embracing ideas and standards that came from the left.

“I’m not talking about gay marriage, on which Republicans have caved, or birth control, on which they’ve made over-the-counter access a national talking point. I’m talking about the core of the liberal agenda: economic equality.

“Here are some of the themes Republicans ran on in this year’s Senate and gubernatorial campaigns: . . .”

Those themes included:



Equal Pay

Median Income

Real Unemployment


Part-Time America

Upward Mobility

Income Inequality

Labor vs Capital

Minimum Wage

Earned Income Tax Credit

Progressive Taxation

In other words, in the absence of a well-articulated economic message from the Democrats, the Republicans co-opted most of the Democratic talking points and argued that they, and not the Democrats, have solutions to these economic problems.

After concisely highlighting how Republicans effectively co-opted the Democratic talking points on each of those issues, Saletin closes:

“Republicans picked up other liberal themes, too. They harped on the injustice of cutting Medicare, the importance of educational opportunity as “the great equalizer,” and the folly of gambling pension money in the stock market. They endorsed health care as a fundamental right, ridiculed the description of wealthy people as “middle-class,” and championed midnight basketball.

“No, Republicans haven’t become liberals. They still hate taxes and blame everything bad on President Obama, Obamacare, and big government. But their focus on wage stagnation and class stratification reflects the economy and the political climate.

“And when you use egalitarian benchmarks to indict the opposition, those benchmarks endure. In the next election, Republicans, too, will be measured by median income, black unemployment, and what they pay women.

“They’ll have to account for the poverty rate, the tax burden on low-income people, and the widening gap between investors and laborers. It’s these underlying benchmarks, not the partisan composition of Congress, that signal the fundamental direction in which the country is heading.”

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has articulated what Democrats need to do to prevent a repeat of this year’s election results in 2016:

“If you want a single reason for why Democrats lost big Tuesday it’s this: Median family income continues to drop, the first “recovery” when this has occurred. Meanwhile, all the economic gains are going to the richest Americans.

“If the Republicans think they can reverse this through their supply-side, trickle-down, fiscal austerity policies, they’re profoundly mistaken. The public will soon discover this.

“But if the Democrats believe they can reverse it simply by raising taxes on the rich and redistributing to everyone else, they are mistaken, too.

“We need to raise the minimum wage, invest in education and infrastructure, lift the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes, resurrect Glass-Steagall and limit the size of the banks, make it easier for low-wage workers to unionize, raise taxes on corporations with high ratios of CEO pay to average worker pay, and much more.

“In other words, we need an agenda for shared prosperity. Over the next two years the Democrats have an opportunity to advance one. If they fail to do so, we’ll need a new opposition party that represents the interests of the vast majority.”

The full text of Saletan’s article is available at: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/11/republicans_win_the_senate_by_sounding_like_democrats_america_is_moving.html


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