meme The two issues that I believe will decide the 2004 US federal election are (a) the domestic economy (with unemployment at a nine-year high and under-employment at epidemic levels, jobs in particular), and (b) the role of the federal government. In a previous post I suggested that the Freedom 2004 Memes for the Democrats should therefore be Put America Back to Work and Government For The People . Each of the two themes should be supported by a series of stories, stories of Americans struggling because of Bush’s obsession with war-mongering abroad and ruinous tax cuts for the rich at home, and stories of Americans harassed by power-crazed out-of-control security bureaucrats sic’d on them by an administration simultaneously and systematically dismantling the social and environmental infrastructure that allows government to actually help people.

  How can this be distilled down to a single, encompassing statement of no more than five words? And what icon could capture this, since the Republicans have wrapped themselves in the flag they have so badly soiled? This is not my forté, but here’s my suggestion:

Help America Work Again.

helping The word DEMOCRATS would be red-white-and-blue word-art with stars and stripes woven through it (beyond my graphic skill). The tagline would be accompanied by a series of different pictures of people at work helping others, mostly at home, but also peacefully abroad, each telling a story. The word WORK is deliberately ambiguous, suggesting both that Democrats will fix what’s broken in America (and every reader who hasn’t already decided to vote for Bush will fill in for themselves what they think is broken), and that they will help ensure meaningful work for people.

Improvement suggestions welcome.

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19 Responses to HOW THE DEMOCRATS CAN WIN IN 2004

  1. Marie Foster says:

    I wonder if our minds do not work a bit in parallel. I have been dreaming lately and those dreams seem to be around the issues of unemployment or underemployment (two facts of life in my multi-generational family).I also read an interesting article in an Indian newspaper about projected US labor problems in the future. Basically, they claim that as the baby boomers start to retire in larger numbers the problems we have are going to change from underemployment to excess jobs with trained people for them. And this seems to make sense to me as I look at the demographics and the way that the labor market here in the states has changed over the past 25 years due to increased globalization.While I agree with you on the short term that this issue is probably the most critical to getting regime change, we also need to be looking for long range solutions to over all needs of our people. I do have a question for you Dave. Is the issue of baby boomer population also an issue for Canada?

  2. mrG says:

    Having watched so many botched Democratic tickets fall by the wayside (do they study the campaign secrets from the Canadian NDP?) I would like to add one other ingredient to your mix: Sad as it is to admit, I think the Democrats have to accept that the people who pull the strings on US elections still expect a nice “normal” WASP for president.Although I still hope to see Colin Powell in the Oval Office (yeah, he’s a Rep, but seems at least a reasonable sort), his success is going to be largly because his name is Colin and not Abdul. Ducakis probably could have made a go of it had his name been George Duke, and before their electorate even considers Hillary, the Democrats have to find a Jane or an Alice to throw into the ring.

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Marie: We have similar demographics to yours, and in the book by a Canadian economist called “Boom, Bust & Echo”, the author predicts a talent shortage in the near future. I think that will help alleviate the problems, but overlooks some other factors already afoot to preempt the need to be nice to employees again: (1) big business is busy scrapping human capital in favour of physical and financial capital, (2) big business is exporting jobs by the million, and (3) people in their 60s aren’t going to be able to afford to retire in Bush’s America, with their wages cut, layoffs in the family, their pensions trashed by corporate ripoffs like Enron, and the impending stock market crash, so expect them to be working until they die (if not longer). But it will be a little easier for those at the tail of the baby ‘echo’ than it has been for those at the tail of the baby ‘boom’.

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    Gary: You’re right. The ultimate icon is the candidate (alas) him-self. The right is already going after some of the Dem candidates who have ‘French-sounding’ names. The ideal candidate would be a WASP with great looks, a roll-up-your-sleeves style, and no history, who would pay attention to his script-writers.

  5. Marie Foster says:

    Dennis K. needs to hire a body double. *sigh* He is the most progressive and the one that I find myself nodding yes to more than the others. But he makes GW look absolutly gargantuan.

  6. mrG says:

    marie hits on a point that I’ve brought up on the knowledgeboard for some notoriety: Human decisions are only very rarely based on reason — we work by a sense of confidence that can be manipulated by exposing the amygdala to specific survival-promoting cues such as food, comfort and sex. Madison Avenue has known this all along, and the Republicans, bless their little heads of state, may not know why, but they lean heavily on the advertising and thus their message takes root whereas the “just the facts ma’am” democrats end up in the category of “what did he say?”What was, for example, Jesse Jackson’s platform? Anyone remember? The thing is, you cannot deny that the electorate is, above all, human and not point-scoring voting devices. Humans look at the world through the coke-bottle glass lenses of their lymbic system and a chemical soup of brain-state altering enzymes and hormones. It’s really, from a scientific standpoint, remarkable that we can reason at all. Politicians who take the view that reason is a given make a terrible mistake. Reason is there, of course, but mostly what you have is a highly inventive, highly intelligent psychotic ;)

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Cheery thought, Gary. I agree to a point that reason is often an afterthought, a ‘tie-breaker’ in making decisions. I blame that as much on the education system (scroll down to the May 29 entry of this blog for an eye-opener on the US education system) as on human nature, though. But it’s reality, and we need to deal with it. The whole ‘voting against’ syndrome in most democracies is another indication that our decision processes are more reptilian than we care to admit.

  8. voodoolulu says:

    “The ideal candidate would be a WASP with great looks, a roll-up-your-sleeves style, and no history, who would pay attention to his script-writers.” – exactly Dave. I think John Edwards, most closely fits this description among the current slate of democrats. and he seems to be an honest, smart, well-intentioned individual on top of it. However, Democrats never famous for being practical seem not to have noticed these realities. He is at 2% in the latest New Hampshire polls, Kerry 25%(an uncharismatic board) and Dean 22%(completely unelectable) are in front. Marie – Dennis Kucinich is not a reality. Don’t kid yourself. He let his city go bankrupt when he was mayor. There is a lot at stake here, and if the democrats don’t start playing hardball – WITH OURSELVES – AS IN: BE REALISTIC! it’s going to be another looooong 4 years.I think we could be considering female and minority VP candidates. word is the the Bush administration is considering running Condoleezza in the VP spot. If that’s the case – the dems almost need to get a person of color or woman on the slate to be competitive.

  9. voodoolulu says:

    by the way Dave, i like you’re idea and the graphic.

  10. The more I look at Howard Dean, the more he looks like the President. Turn the sound off and watch how he carries himself. When you have the right aura, it doesn’t matter what positions you take, and Dems would be fooling themselves to settle for a reptile like Lieberman out of some misguided notion that his wishy-washy politics mean squat to anyone. Bush is living proof that policy positions mean nothing in American politics right now. The D’s need someone people could picture as President. That’s not Edwards (not this time, anyway), it’s not Kerry, and god knows it’s not any of the rest of the pack. Dean looks like someone you can trust, and if people trust him, he is electable regardless of what he stands for.

  11. Rob Paterson says:

    Hope is a great ticket. It was all that Roosevelt had to offer. Signs are that the econmy is tanking – not just cyclically but structurally.The new customer driven model is killing the old production modelThe new model firms such as the discount airlines, eBay, Dell etc will take the old system to the wall. Many household names with 100,000 of employees will fail. Airlines, retailers, PC manufacturers. Plus all those that supply them – airline catering? I can see this happening in all sectors as the new model emerges in every sector such as even education and healthcare. As the pace of transition accelerates so will downward pressure on the stockmarket. Millions of Americans savings are already shrinking. In this transition pensions will be even more at risk. The US Housing market has become the last refuge for money and hope. There are signs that the global house price boom is over. All thse forces can converge by next summer.So the electoral issue in my mind is not really jobs per se or healthcare. It is to make clear to voters the transition that is occurring. The old election talk and measures will not work. Tax cuts – The GWB tax cut will have no meaning becuase it does not address the key issue of strructural transition. Spending- Why advocating more consumer spending will not help the firms who will die because they are organized in the old way. Lower interest rates – look at Japan!I can see such a transition making people who had trusted the old model very angry. Like the German middle Class who lost their savings after WWI. They will feel betrayed. Any incumbent will be in trouble. A Dem who acknowledged what was really going on. Who could paint the picture of the change – and offered hope would do well I think

  12. Marie Foster says:

    Ack! I did not know that about Dennis Kucinich. Oh well. Edwards in my book seems to lack the kind of experience I think is needed to be President. Is he not a first term Senator? My idealistic side rankles at the idea that you do not have to say what you mean during a campaign. Bush got that one down pat. I can remember him criticizing Clinton (who he really ran against instead of Gore) for deploying our troops in too many places. *sheesh*Rob has pretty much summed up my feelings about the degree of changes in our country. I am not as prescient as he is about these trends however. I think that is an aspect of my age and my tendency to look back instead of looking forward. If his assessment is correct, then we need a new vision as to what is really needed to bring us back from the brink, or something positive to find in the trend.

  13. I think Democrats will make a big mistake if they don’t use the word security: job security, health security, social secuity, securing of civil liberties and yes secuity from terrorism. Tie it into a knot can not be untied and that can only be undone by cutting it with a sword, but if Bush and his gang attempt to do that, in the process they loose their own issue.

  14. voodoolulu says:

    To Rob Salkowitz, I am going to take another look at Dean. Although I was completely against the war, I am very concerned how his peace position is going to play in middle-america. In regard to the other Rob and the transitioning economy, Republican websites are already giving Bush’s tax cut the credit for the rise in the Dow. And who knows maybe it is credit due. I have money in the market, and would certainly like to see it go up and not down. These same Republicans are predicting this rise as the beginning of a good run in the market, that would be in mid-stride around the election in 2004. I believe this was Bush’s plan all along, and even one of the reasons he was so worried about going to war with Iraq immediately – so that the markets could bounce back in time for the elections. The economy is a very difficult thing to predict, and I don’t think the dems should plan their entire strategy around the idea that everything is tanking. For one thing it puts us back in the “negativity” role we are so infamous for, and that we’ve got to change. You can be about progress without always sounding like a doomsdayerOne focus can be on who is benefiting from any progress in the economy. There was a great New York Times Magazine article last year about how the middle-class that was created in the 50’s and 60’s has seen almost NO tangible increase in standard of living, compared to astronomical increases by the wealthy.

  15. Dave Pollard says:

    Lulu: Appreciate your thoughts. I have no idea why Edwards isn’t more popular than he is. Maybe Rob is right and he needs seasoning or an image makeover. I remain astonished that Bush is 63/27 popularity rating — what in the world is going on with Americans? Also, I agree that a woman or minority VP candidate would be helpful, though I have no idea who that might be. As for the economy, I don’t think we need to be gloomy — it’s in trouble, due especially to the fragile state of the $US and the unsustainable trade deficit, but also to the crushing debt. I think we can count on that to come home to roost and hurt the markets and employment further.

  16. Dave Pollard says:

    Rob: I’m also leaning towards Dean, but then I’m the wrong barometer — I’d vote anyone against Bush. How do you see him appealing to small business, labour, and minorities?

  17. Dave Pollard says:

    Rob P.: Tall order — calling it like it is on the economy and offering hope. Economists say it could take a decade or more to undo the economic damage Bush has already wreaked. In the Toronto Star on Sunday Bush was quoted as describing himself as “The Master of Low Expectations” (or something like that). When you set the bar that low, it makes it hard for the incumbent to fail, and for anyone to pass him.

  18. Doug Alder says:

    The bit abou Dennis Kucinich lettingCleveland go bankrupt is a cheap shot being thrown out by Republicans early in the campaign. Yes the city went bankrupt but that was because he inherited an ungodly messs from his less liberal predecessors. The banks that held the debt were in bed with a number of high flying power utilit companies that wanted Cleveland to seell of the municipally owneed powr utility. The banks conspired to blackmail Kucinich stating that if he didn’t sell off the powr company they would call the debt. He told them to get stuffed and they called the debt and put the city into bankruptcy.He campaigned on a promise of not selling the utility and he kept his promise. Even his most steadfast opponments of that time now admit it was the right thing to do. His action has saved the city and its citizens hundreds of millions of dollars in the interim. How did the citizens react to the bankruptcy? THey re-elected him.Making a statement like “He let his city go bankrupt when he was mayor” is misleading because it is intended to scare people off by playing on the fears associated with bankruptcy while not providing the whole story. For that matter bankruptcy is not necessarily a bad thing. One need only look at companoes in the telecom sector such as 360 Networks to see how beneficial bankruptcy can be. As a company they are much stronger than they have ever been. They came out of banjruptcy with no debt and a large bank account after haviong sold off a bunch of assests that were not core business. Cleveland was much nbetter off at the end of his tenure than it was at the start, and that is what really counts.

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