Democrats continue to refuse to look at how important framing and messaging is in driving a core set of principles. Republicans figured out their importance decades ago and that’s a big reason why this country has taken such a radical turn to the extreme right since.
Why is these two abstract concepts so important? Take the recent health care debate as an example. Specifically, let’s look at the public option and what Republicans did about it internally:
At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News’ controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network’s journalists not to use the phrase “public option.”
Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox’s reporters should use “government option” and similar phrases — wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats’ reform efforts.
Did this doom the public option all by itself? Of course not. But these phrases resonate with folks who have been purposefully trained to think of anything the government does as inefficient and wasteful (on the nice side of the spectrum). Republicans have mastered the two-word soundbite culture. The phrases that pass through Luntz’s playbook and into the Republican machine are some of the most recognizable and effective in our political lexicon today.
Democrats do themselves and this country a disservice by continuing to brush framing and messaging off as something beneath their notice. They think if they fully explain every nuance of every policy, the facts by themselves will win over enough of the public to implement their ideas. It hasn’t worked in decades and it will be less effective in the future.