In yesterday's Daily Dose, I pointed out significant problems with the new messaging being pushed by Democratic leadership. It was striking to me that in unveiling the new message ("A Better Deal..."), Dem leadership evoked the idea of FDR and stated that this was a return to the populist ideas of FDR's "New Deal". In terms of message, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Democrats "A Better Deal" message is the polar opposite of FDR. Why? It has everything to do with perception and framing.
First, FDR's message on "The New Deal" was NOT about any kind of "deal" in terms of how the word is understood today. Today, the term is evocative of the conservative market frame where winners and losers are decided by self-discipline and financial wealth. In contrast, FDR's message about "The New Deal" was a moral message that evoked the progressive idea of "freedom." In other words, the promise of a future where we care for, and take care of each other through our government to ensure people are free from want, fear, and have the freedoms of speech and religious practice.
FDR's message (and framing of "freedom") was so successful, that the US Chamber of Commerce launched the first, and foundational, conservative campaign to re-frame the idea of freedom to fit conservative market principles. The campaign launched in the late 1930's, and was overwhelmingly successful at equating capitalism with Christianity - and casting The New Deal and FDR as being "pagan statism."
The success of this campaign is felt today, and conservatives have succeeded at defining the "free market" as a moral entity, as well as driving a wedge of mistrust and fear between the people and their own government.
In order for Democrats to be successful, it will take more that a rip off of "free market" based messages such as Trump's "Art of the Deal" or Papa John's "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" (don't tell me you didn't think of that similarity). It is going to take an FDR style, moral message that re-frames "freedom" as being all of our moral responsibilities in a democracy and caring society.
More importantly, it will take a positive vision for the future - as in, what the future can be if we all care for each others' freedom and prosperity. Most importantly, Democrats will need to finally dispose of issue-based litmus tests as some type of credential into the "club", and provide people with a moral vision of freedom to believe in, rally around, and vote FOR.
The bottom line - as progressives, we need to provide people with the idea that through caring for each other, and working together, we can have a HOPEFUL future where people live free from fear, free from want, and everyone has free speech and religious freedom as we would want for ourselves.
It's empathy in word and action.
Tomorrow - what the FoxConn factory means for Democratic messaging and candidates.