Messaging Microcosm and Macrocosm

A recent vote in Montgomery County (MC), Maryland, illustrates the problem in microcosm that Democrats have with messaging.

This past November there was a proposal, Question B, on the ballot as to whether term limits should apply to County Council members and the county executive. A local Republican activist frustrated by the Democrats’ dominance on the Council pushed the proposal. In MC, 58 percent of the registered voters are Democrat, 19 percent are Republican and 22 percent are independent.

Clinton clobbered Trump by more than three to one in MC, 75 percent to 19 percent in the general election.

The local Democratic Party carefully researched Question B, and urged Democrats to vote against it. Their research was thorough and showed that when term limits were implemented, institutional knowledge was lost and that the influence of lobbyists and special interests increased.

So in a heavily Democratic area that defeated similar propositions twice before, Question B overwhelmingly passed with 70 percent voting for it and 30 percent voting against it.

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Strong Stances, Good Messages

According to Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., “Pollster Allan Rivlin has been offering a compelling presentation to Democrats, arguing that they lack a clear, comprehensible and convincing economic message. He’s right. It’s time they got one.”

Let me second, third and fourth that. Democrats have not been getting their message out for a long time. This has caused the Democrats to lose big in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, and to lose the most recent presidential election in the Electoral College. In contrast, the unified messages provided by the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2016 have contributed to his wins.

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Democrats Must Focus on Messaging

There is a passionate debate as to whether Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz should be replaced. This debate focuses on three main points: did Wasserman Schultz show favoritism towards Secretary Clinton, has she been biased against Senator Sanders, and can Wasserman Schultz unify the party? However, neither of the preceding points are the most important criteria for evaluating the Chairwoman’s performance as head of the DNC.

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