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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Democrats Drink Gin...

...and Republicans drink bourbon. Did you know that? If you were a Republican campaign strategist, you would. And if you want to be a Democratic strategist, you should too.

According to this LA Times article, the Republican Party is light years ahead of their Democratic counterparts at targeting its core voters and tailoring its message to them. The Republicans are efficient. They don’t waste a lot of time, effort or money going after voters to whom they are never going to appeal. And despite the “Big Tent” crap, they don’t usually put their expensive ad campaigns and Get Out the Vote efforts into New York’s inner cities or Beverly Hills’ gated communities.

Back to the gin and bourbon. It makes perfect sense. Bourbon is more popular in the South – think Jack Daniels and George Dickel. And the South, demographically, is more receptive to the Republican Party’s message. Gin, on the other hand, is traditionally favored by urban blue collar voters, the Democrats’ core constituency. Marketers know this. So should Democratic political operatives. They should also know the other buying and consuming habits of their core Democratic voters, the better to target them and tailor their message to them.

Republicans, for instance, know that Republicans-leaning voters are more apt to buy Fords while Democrats purchase Volvos. People interested in military history tend to be more socially conservative.

All this information on marketing habits is there for the taking. Republicans have just utilized that knowledge more effectively than Democrats have in identifying their core voters and getting out their message to them.

But, according to this article, we are finally catching up.

And here’s another positive sign that Democrats may be getting serious about winning elections.

According to this story in yesterday's Washington Post, a group of wealthy liberal Democrats have agreed to contribute $80 million over a five-year period to fund some new liberal think tanks. These wealthy liberals are pledging their own money and also promising to get their friends to donate so they can set up a web of new policy shops to compete with older, more established conservative groups, such as The Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, and The Hoover Foundation, which have been funneling ideas and policies to the Republican Party for decades.

This is not only good news; it's long overdue!

For at least several decades, the Republicans have been reaming Democrats with a plethora of policies and ideas while Democrats have struggled from campaign cycle to campaign cycle just to define themselves. And the one thing we hear constantly from voters, despite our efforts, is that they don’t know where our candidates stand on issues.

Whether it’s actually true or not, these voters perceive Republicans, such as George Bush, as strong minded candidates who stand up for what they believe. In last year’s presidential race, the public viewed Bush not as stubborn or arrogant, but as honest and principled. On the other hand, they saw John Kerry as wishy-washy and weak. And worse, they thought that he’d say anything to get elected. And voters claimed they didn't know where he stood on the major issues.

Part of this, of course, was due to the poor campaign run by his managers who were not quick enough to end attacks against their candidate. The Republican Party and their conservative allies spent a lot of money to paint an untrue picture of Kerry’s character. But Shrum, Devine and Cahill certainly made the Republicans' job easier by not answering those attack ads rapidly enough.

But Democrats have got to face the truth that they are better at telling the public what they oppose than they are at saying what it is they stand for. And that does make them look negative and whiny.

A more effective strategy would be to state what it is they oppose in the Republicans' platform and then to follow that with statements of what they would do instead if they were elected.These contrast and compare ads are more effective than totally negative attack ads because they criticize the Republican opponent and also give voters a reason to vote for the Democratic candidate instead.

A well done contrast and compare ad that attacks one’s opponent and offers a better position on the issues, or a better candidate, is a very effective campaign strategy. And having surrogate groups to do your negative attacks also is effective, as the Republicans have proven.

However, strategy with no new ideas won’t win elections. It’s like any other ad campaign that depends on style with no substance. People eventually catch on and stop buying your product no matter how clever your ad campaign. Products like Alka-Seltzer, which tanked even though their ads consistently won awards for originality, prove that even the best ad campaign a marketer can come up with is no substitute for a quality product when it comes to actually selling your goods to the public.

Although creating think tanks, encouraging scholars to come up with great policy statements, and finding fresh ideas are all part of the solution, Democrats also have to know how to market their message.

To compete effectively in elections we’ve got to have fresh ideas, sound policy, a coherent and consistent message and the means to get it out to an audience that we have effectively targeted as receptive to our ideas.

And we have got to get competitive with Republicans so that voters have a real choice and real Americans, once again, have a chance to realize the American Dream that has been slowly slipping away from us under the Bush Administration.

5 comments:

The Fool said...

I'm tearing my hair out watching the Democrats here in Columbus talk about using "faith" just like the GOP. Are they kidding? Here they are trying to pass themselves off as Republican Lite all over again in spite of what Howard Dean said in 2004. I'm totally disgusted.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Hang in there Fool. Actually I don't know much about what's going on in Columbus. My feeling is that we're never going to fool Evangelicals. They're not going to vote for us, ever.

Except for the Christian Left. But that includes some surprising good guys. I may not agree with them about everything, but they are right there on the picket lines whenever Virigina, for example, executes a prisoner, which is pretty often.

They've been there, too, on many of the peace and justice issues.

I'll agree to disagree with them on some things and keep them as allies on other things.

But, no Dems shouldn't pander and shouldn't compromise their core beliefs. Or why bother? When we do, we just don't fool anybody any way. We would gain more allies by standing for something.

The Fool said...

My Columbus remark was in reference to all the top Democrats congregating here two weeks ago for a meeting. Howard Dean, Hillary and all and sundry were here to figure out how to make people think that the Democrats have religious faith too. Huh? What are they thinking?

And yes, I'll take anything. How about bringing our guys back from Iraq and telling them that they can stay stateside AND fight terrorism at the same time as we lock down our southern border? Al Queda is hiding out in Mexico and taking Hispanic surnames to sneak into the U.S. We know this already from our intelligence and in case people need to be reminded...the 9/11 terrorists weren't attacking us from Iraq, they were HERE. But NOOOOOO, we want to hang onto every Latino voter who thinks it's an emtitlement for their relatives to sneak over here to use our social services. Sure we'd lose them but we'd attract more disenfranchised white voters that think it's wrong to sneak into this country illegally.

How about taking the energy issue and making it about national security all at once? How about if we break out of the pack by making nuclear power our priority? How about if we turn the tables on the GOP by asking the electorate if they'd rather become energy independant or if they'd rather send their sons and daughters to die in a Middle Eastern hell-hole? How about if we could get 65% of our power from nuclear power just like France? NOOOOOOOOO, we can't do that and alienate the fringe eco-groups who are going to vote Green anyway.

How about if we take on the evangelicals directly by telling them that we believe in secular government and that we resent them bringing the divisiveness of religion into the campaign? How about if we start to include all the non-Christians who have been marginalized for so many years? Ever seen an atheist Senator? That's my point.

But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. We'll pander to the pious and nibble around the edges by attempting to fool them into believing we're something that we're not. This will cause us to lose yet again as we rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Christ.

Making the Democrats viable again would take someone of the stature of FDR. Roosevelt didn't pander, he was who he was and seemed proud of it. He made bold decisions and serious initiatives that transformed this country. Our Democratic leaders must make bold moves as well, not just attempt to convince the Bible thumpers that they're something they're clearly not. I want my country back. I want my FDR.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

You're not such a fool, Fool. You make some good points. I too would like FDR back, and also Eleanor, and Frances Perkins, who was FDR's Secretary of Labor and the one most responsible for the creation of Social Security.

Unfortunately, we Democrats now have to settle for pygamies rather than giants in our party.

Having said that, Hillary can be forgiven for wanting to appeal to religious voters. She and Bill Clinton actually are churchgoers. During his administration, they attended Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, DC.

Despite his many personal transgressions, Clinton always saw himself as a believer, albeit an imperfect one who commited some sins.

Hilary, too, has spoken often about her Methodist background and her faith.

The truth is the two of them are probably better Christians than W and the Evangelicals will ever be.

I agree, though, that Democrats should take on the Evangelicals - but not just from a political perspective.

Separation of church and state is an inviolable consitutional principle. But it is equally important that the Religious Left take on these zealots, and challenge them as fellow Christians. It's important that Evangelicals not be allowed to hijack Christianity, just as radical Muslim terrorists not be allowed to hijack Islam.

There are genuine Christians, Jews, Muslims, and those of other faith traditions who do respect secular values. And they respect the freedom and rights of those who are not believers too.

And they need to challenge their less tolerant brethren in ways that those of us who are secular can't, which is on their theology.

Meanwhile, Democrats need to welcome both religious and secular citizens into the party. But the line drawn in sand has to be the freedom of conscience and religious rights for all citizens, including those who choose not to have religious beliefs.

Atheists and agnostics should not be disenfranchised or marginalized, especially since they are frequently among the most knowlegeable and intelligent citizens we have. They might just be the ones who have the solutions to some of our most pressing problems.

For example, on global warming, a scientist's views might be more valuble than James Watts' opinions of trees.Or scientists might be able to help with solutions to faminine and AIDs in Africa.

I also agree with you about the need for more secure borders. And yes, Bush and the Republicans have been pandering to Hispanics. It's been a deliberate strategy and it has paid off for them. The Hispanic vote for Bush increased in 2004 from 35 percent to 44 percent.

There has to be a way for American citizens - not Democrat or Republican - but citizens to welcome and respect Hispanics who enter the country legally without sacrificing our security in the process.

Most of all, I think we agree that Democrats need to stand for something. They need to show how they are different from Republicans, not how they are really just kinder, more moderate Republicans.

I believe it might have been Will Rogers who said, "given a choice between a Republican and a Republican, the public will always vote for the Republican."

We need to give them a real Democratic choice. On that, my friend, we agree.

The Fool said...

I guess what I'm frustrated about is how Democrats want to appeal to red state voters but don't want to actually change. It's all PR. Someone needs to change huge planks in the Democratic platform on a number of issues but they're too afraid because it would rearrange relationships the Democrats have had with their base for 40 years. They don't want to piss off the fringes of their party either so we get this posturing, this PR stunt, window dressing. It pains me to see my party going down the tubes like this.