The Democrats' Ailing Propaganda Machine
Friday, August 21, 2009
Regardless of one's political affiliation, one thing is clear. Both sides of the aisle and their respective mouthpieces, as well as special interest groups, are leveraging public relations and other tools of persuasion to the best of their abilities in order to advance their sides of the heath care story. However, as usual, the Republicans are winning the word war.
Even the most leftist, bleeding-heart Liberal has to give their counterparts credit for their ability to consistently drive home a cohesive, powerful message. The Democrats have pulled a page from the Republican playbook with the carefully screened Presidential town hall meetings, resulting in softball questions and near-scripted dialogue. But they still haven't figured out how to brand an idea.
Admittedly, the major issues facing our country are too complex and nuanced to be boiled down to catch phrases or taglines. And doing so tends to paint a one-sided, one-dimensional picture of the broader problem. But to move the masses, a single, memorable, cohesive message platform is required. It's a sad truth that oversimplified, pithy half-truths seem to stick and drive public discourse. "Death panels." "Pull the plug on grandma." "Death tax." "Cut and run." "Weapons of mass destruction." "Bridge to nowhere." "Hope." "Change." "Yes we can." "I like Ike." "Der Fatherland." "Plop, plop. Fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is!"
In short, the Democrats need to tune their propaganda machine. Its gears are grinding and its doing little more than making strange noises and puffing out an occasion plume of smoke. As one foreign editorial puts it, they've "brought knives to the gunfight."
Sure, propaganda is a dirty word in a democratic, free society. But its actual meaning isn't inherently nefarious or evil. While we understandably mistrust messages intended to persuade, persuasion as an end isn't necessarily wrong. It's the means used to get there - the tactics employed and the truth behind them.
The real danger of propaganda is when a single side of the debate overpowers all other voices - when one side is too inept, unfocused, unorganized, underpowered or underfunded to effectively communicate its counterpoints. The debate over health care reform has devolved into a shouting match of parroted buzzwords - half-truths at best, outright lies at worst - and uncivil discourse.
While buzzwords and half-truths from the other side are far from a fix-all antidote, they would certainly help balance out what is, for all practical purposes, largely a one-sided argument. If the Democrats are going to accomplish anything other than looking foolish, they need to up their game. It's embarrassing for them, really. After all, if they can't even get their message clear, how are they going to fix our health care system, the economy, the escalating violence in Afghanistan and prolonged war in Iraq, the crippling national deficit, the impending energy crisis, North Korea...