Daily Dose: Foxconn is an opportunity for Dems...or a disaster

July 27, 2017


Your going to want to share this with fellow Democrats, and as subscribers, its your prerogative. With the announcement of a major manufacturing plant (the largest in state history) to be built by Foxconn, Democrats are in desperate need of a new messaging strategy to win elections in 2018. The desperation is apparent in the early responses from Dem leaders and the party faithful. Why do I call it "desperation"? Because the Dem response, as of today, has been to both vilify Foxconn itself, and to imply that the jobs aren't worth the risk to taxpayers.


These are both horrible strategies, and play right into the hands of conservatives - and Scott Walker. Foxconn, and companies like it, are already understood in the dominant metaphorical term of being a "job creator" by a vast majority of the public. They are also very successful, which in the dominant conservative frame makes them moral and disciplined - again, this is understood by a vast majority of the population. So attacking them is akin to attacking a moral leader who is poised to lead Wisconsinites out of their economic woes - and give them better wages leading to a better future (sound familiar, Dems?). 


The strategy of saying that the jobs aren't worth the taxpayer risk is largely evocative of the conservative idea that government is immoral, and shouldn't mess with the free market. More importantly, it is implying that the people who will hold those jobs, and whose lives will be better are not deserving of them, not to be cared about, and are not as important as other Democratic priorities. It's reinforcing the perception of Democrats as "elitist" and uncaring for the plight of the average worker - which largely cost Dems the industrial Midwest in 2016.


So how should Democrats handle the Foxconn project? With empathy for the people and communities who need work in order to prosper and have a good quality of life. The economic reality also presents Democrats with an opportunity to talk and act on one of the most important tenets of the progressive frame - that our freedom and prosperity as a people, state, and nation depend on the public - each other. Foxconn can't build their factory and increase their profitability without all of us! They need our infrastructure, our educational system, our investment as a people in order for this to become a reality.


Why is this important? Because it changes the emphasis from "job creator" to people caring about each other and the community/state we live in. It also means that our government officials and Foxconn itself now has a moral obligation to "pay it forward" and act responsibly to the people, communities, and state that are making it possible for them to increase their profitability!


This is no small task. Because right now, every Dem is focused on attacking and vilifying - instead of providing a new vision of how all this should work for the betterment of everyone, not just a few at the top of the corporate and political system. Democrats must have a message based on empathy, responsibility, freedom, and prosperity for everyone. That means living in a world with an employer like Foxconn, as well as employers having a moral responsibility for the people and government that make their success possible.


I'm going to make a bold prediction right now for 2018. Foxconn is a game changer for Democrats. If the strategists and upper echelon don't pivot their message as I've outlined above, and get away from the knee-jerk, conservatively-framed attacks, and towards a more empathetic community message, 2018 will be a very bad year for Democrats.

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