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Success [in politics] has less to do with brains than guts.... Democrats have failed at the basics: defining their message, at- tacking their opponents, defending their leaders, inspiring their voters.... Americans don·t like what Republicans stand for, but they don·t know what Democrats stand for. ³ JAMES CARVILLE AND PAUL BEGALA1
Westen, Drew (2008). The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation (p. 145). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.
Sample Elevator Speeches
y Sharing time and discussion
The Elements of the Emotionally Resonate Message
y Today·s Democratic Party is determined to renew America·s most
basic bargain: Opportunity to every American, and responsibility from every American. And today·s Democratic Party is determined to reawaken the great sense of American community. Opportunity. Responsibility. Community. These are the values that made America strong. These are the values of the Democratic Party. These are the values that must guide us into the future. Today, America is moving forward with the strong presidential leadership it deserves. The economy is stronger, the deficit is lower, and government is smaller. Education is better, our environment is cleaner, families are healthier, and our streets are safer. There is more opportunity in America, more responsibility in our homes, and more peace in the world.31
The Elements of Clinton·s Success
y 1. First paragraph - promises to address Americans· interests (opportunity) and
their values, including values more often associated with the right (responsibility). y 2. The second paragraph draws its emotional power from its literary style. Presenting the words opportunity, responsibility, and community as sentences in their own right literally forces the reader to ´speakµ these words as they would be delivered in oratory³punctuating each one with significance. (powerful rhetorical device- talk simple English, but speak it powerfully!) y 3. The next paragraph describes the basis for the claim that the Democrats can deliver on these promises. (NOW ² give·em a few facts, reasons they should believe you!)
y As was so characteristic of Clinton·s appeals, the sequence of the paragraphs is
not incidental. It begins with an appeal to emotion, wedding voters· interests with quintessentially American values, and then follows with an authoritative presentation of what he had accomplished.
Once upon a time, America was a shining beacon. Then liberals came along and erected an enormous federal bureaucracy that handcuffed the invisible hand of the free market. They subverted our traditional American values and opposed God and faith at every step of the way. Instead of trusting people to choose how to govern themselves in their own states based on their own local mores and values, they trusted socalled experts and liberal elites in Washington and Massachusetts to tell the rest of us how to think. Instead of trusting businessmen to make decisions that would produce prosperity, they imposed regulations that stifled it. Instead of letting people send their children to their local schools, they bused children to neighborhoods far from home. Instead of letting people spend their own hard-earned money, they thought they could spend it better. Instead of requiring that people work for a living, they si-phoned money from hard-working Americans and gave it to Cadillac-driving drug addicts and welfare queens. Instead of punishing criminals, they tried to ´understandµ them. Instead of worrying about the victims of crime, they worried about the rights of criminals. Instead of adhering to traditional American values of family, fidelity, and personal responsibility, they preached promiscuity, premarital sex, and the gay lifestyle. Instead of promoting the family, they turned a blind eye to escalating rates of teenage motherhood and paternal irresponsibility, and they encouraged a feminist agenda that undermined traditional family roles. Instead of demanding personal responsibility and self-restraint, they preached unbridled pursuit of pleasure. Instead of promoting faith, they tried to keep the Almighty out of schools, town squares, and courthouses. Instead of letting people use their tax dollars to send their children to the schools of their choice, they discriminated against schools that preached religious faith. They fought every effort to instill Christian values in our children, and they persecuted the faithful. Instead of projecting strength to those who would do evil around the world, they cut military budgets, disrespected our soldiers in uniform, burned our flag, and chose negotiation and multilateralism instead of asserting our military strength and sovereignty.Then Americans decided to take their country back from those who sought to undermine it.
Why It Works
y 1. Easy to tell and retell
y Everyone knows exactly what someone who calls himself or herself a conservative
purportedly values: military strength, tax cuts, minimal government, fiscal restraint, traditional values, patriotism, and religious faith. This clear message starts conservative candidates with 35 to 60 percent of the vote before opening their mouths, depending on the state or district.
y What it left out:
y the failure to explain the intent of the villain, y the reason liberals began to ´tinkerµ with the free market y That liberals are not at war with God, but theocracy y Race and localism
y just as unregulated capitalism can produce market failures, unregulated democracy can produce
´democracy failures,µ in which a majority can discriminate against a minority with relative impunity. In such cases, a larger majority (in this case, an entire nation) may need to step in to regulate these failures.
The Missed Oppurtunity
y Reagan delivered his first speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi ² the Southern strategy vs.
Jimmy Carter y What Carter should have said:
y Governor Reagan, what you have done today makes my stomach turn. It·s un-American,
it·s un-Christian, and it shows a callousness that not even your well-honed acting skills can cover. You know exactly what it means to talk about ´states· rightsµ in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a town still torn up over the brutal slaying of three civil rights workers just sixteen short years ago. And in case anyone is too young to remember, let me spell it out for you. ´States· rightsµ was the smokescreen used to stop black people from voting for a hundred years. We·ve worked hard in the South to overcome the painful wounds of bigotry and hatred, and today, Mr. Reagan, you·ve deliberately reopened those wounds today with a nod and a wink and an ´aw shucks,µ for no other reason than your personal ambition. What you have done today is to desecrate the memory of three young men who gave their lives for our nation·s freedom, just as surely as those who have served our nation in battle over 200 years have done. Well, let me tell you something, Governor. You can take your brand of hatred back to where you came from. We don·t need your kind in the land where my father and his forefathers have farmed for 200 years. We don·t need outside agitators like you, fanning the flames of racial hatred. You ride in like a cowboy with a white hat, but it isn·t a white hat you·re wearing. It·s a white hood. Your hood is off, Governor, and I have to tell you, what·s underneath is ugly.
A Democratic Narrative
The story begins with a good little train, whose mission was to bring toys and treats to girls and boys on the other side of the mountain. It wasn·t going to bring the toys to just any old boy or girl. It was going to bring them to the good boys and girls, transmitting, under the radar screen of our children·s imaginations, messages not only about good behavior but about justice, that goodness is rewarded. But then something happens: through apparently no fault of its own, the train stops with a jerk, unable to move (the obstacle that sets up the plot). At first, the toys on the train panic, but then they realize they have nothing to fear because many trains would pass by that could give them a helping hand³inculcating the value of community and the expectation of trust in the goodness of others. But that·s not what happens. One locomotive after another³a shiny engine with fine carriages and elegant dining cars that carries people, not lowly toys, apples, and lollypops; a powerful engine capable of much heavier lifting³ignores the pleas for help because each felt it was too good for the little train and its cargo (the antagonists). The implicit message is that no train, no matter how rich or powerful, should put itself above others and refuse to help out a poor neighbor in need. Eventually, just as the clowns and dolls on the stalled train are about to lose hope, a little blue engine approaches. The clowns and dolls explain their dilemma. The little blue engine isn·t very strong and has never been over the mountain. But those poor little boys and girls on the other side must get their treats. Although she has no material interest in helping the train and its cargo, she takes their plight as her plight and decides to do everything in her power to help them. Again, the moral lesson is clear but implicit: to help those in need³even when you don·t know them, even at a cost to yourself, even if you·re not sure you can do it³is the right thing to do. So then the little engine begins pushing them up the mountain. It isn·t easy, and it takes all her strength. But as she climbs up the mountain, she expresses the central theme of the story: ´I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.µ Because she has confidence, the motivation to succeed, and a worthy goal, she does succeed (the denouement). And as she begins to roll down the mountain, she smiles to herself and chugs, ´I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.µ Westen, Drew (2008). The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation (pp. 148-149). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.
The Bottom Line
y As long as Democrats continue to acquiesce in the stories
Republicans tell about themselves and the ways they define such crucial terms as fairness and character (e.g., isn·t prejudice a character issue?), the longer the media will accept and transmit those stories and definitions. And once the media accept them, the party·s over.
Rebranding the Repubs
y y y
y y y
Challenge conservatives repeatedly with a set of inconvenient truths so that the conservative ´brandµ begins to take on different emotional connotations. [See Handout] What is disconcerting about this list, is not what·s on it. It·s the fact that most Americans would be shocked by almost everything on it. They would have no idea that conservatism has stood on the wrong side of virtually every effort to expand freedom in the last century. But the fact that most Americans would be shocked by this list is not the fault of conservatives. It is the fault of the left. Test yourself ² what are some Conservative phrases for liberals? Name some commonly used Liberal phrases for conservatives. ´Because the left has no brand, no counterbrand, no master narrative, no counternarrative. It has no shared terms or ´talking pointsµ for its leaders to repeat until they are part of our political lexicon. Instead, every Democrat who runs for office, every Democrat who offers commentaries on television or radio, every Democrat who even talks with friends at the water cooler, has to reinvent what it means to be a Democrat, using his or her own words and concepts, as if the party had no history. If this is how Coke marketed itself, we would all be drinking Pepsi. ´
How to Argue and Win Every Time
y Gary Spence·s Ten Rules« y Prepare ² know your topic, even if it is only ONE topic y Be sure to assign roles to the players in your narrative y Put the listener at ease, make it obvious that he or she has the power to accept or reject your y y y y
argument Tell your story Tell the truth y Use ordinary words, be credible when you tell your story! Tell them what you want Avoid sarcasm, scorn and ridicule
y Respect is reciporical
y Logic is power y But it can be dull and deadly ² keep your presentation lively, spontaneous. y Action and winning are brothers ² Take the initiative ² If you are explaining, you are losing! y Admit the weak points in your argument ² better to disarm their strongest points by
explaining them first. y Understand your power. Trust yourself to deliver your story, relax and let it flow!
y Talking to (or around) Difficult People
y Start with common values y Focus on problem solving, not philosophy y More to come
y They say/ We say ² How do you prepare talking points for
yourself and others to use?
y A short sample exercise!
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