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Status Quo? No Thanks!

keepplacid.jpgFollowing on the heels of last week’s discussion on “black hat” political labels and the need to continue the narrative, there is an on point op-ed in the WaPo that asks some interesting questions from a communications perspective:

The philosopher David Hume had it right: Reason is the slave to the passions, not the other way around. Recognizing the primacy of passion in everything we do has profound implications for politics. Reason is the middle manager in decision making, not the CEO. Policies are nothing but the frontmen for values. You listen to the middleman’s “pitch,” but you go straight to the top when it’s time to choose. You go, in other words, to your emotions — particularly your moral emotions — when you pull a lever in the voting booth.

Behind every campaign lies a vision of mind. That vision is rarely articulated, but it influences everything a campaign does or doesn’t do….

If the other side is trashing you and you say nothing or back down, you cede to your adversaries the neural networks that constitute public opinion. People vote largely with their passions, and if you jam their emotional radar, you prevent them from making emotionally informed decisions. Consider the case of George W. Bush, whose life story telegraphed everything voters needed to know to make an informed decision about him: He had dodged the Vietnam-era draft while avidly supporting the war; he had drunk his way through much of his adulthood, even while he had young children at home; he had shown extraordinary incompetence in the business world; his campaign had smeared Sen. John McCain with stories about mental instability and an allegedly illegitimate baby to get Bush through the South Carolina primary in 2000; and he had mocked a fellow born-again Christian whom he put to death as governor of Texas. It was quite a story. The problem was that the Democrats wouldn’t tell it.

When you hear a pollster or strategist say, “We’ve got ’em beat on the issues,” you know you’re on the dispassionate river, and you know you’re going under….

…They don’t say, “Karl Rove needs to testify under oath about the CIA leak case because we must have a transcript.” Rather, when the president invokes executive privilege, they ask, with righteous indignation: “Mr. Bush, just what is it about ‘So help me God’ that you find so offensive?”

Think about this for a moment: most people are too busy with the details of their everyday lives to pay attention to the minutiae. If the Democrats are the masters of the nitpicky details…where exactly does that leave them except in the dust? The need to craft a good narrative — one based on facts, absolutely, but with enough of an emotional hook to pull people actively into the discussion — is a basic, gut level need for communication.

And not just for political campaign season, either, but for each and every issue that we hit.  There is a reason the “village elders” are so far off the mark — they aren’t listening to the facts because they are as easily distracted by wayward cleavage as the bulk of the public when it comes to details and provisos.  The Democrats need a more compelling narrative, and they need to stop listening to timid, status quo consultants and pundits who are telling them otherwise.

Go for the gut and the heart first. 

(And stop allowing yourselves to be bamboozled by falafel-coveting morons.  What, you don’t remember the falafel?  Or the cleavage obsessed: twolf1 tells me that Wolf Blitzer has been all cleavage, alla time today regarding HRC….because, heaven forbid, cable news channels should actually discuss, you know…NEWS, or something.  Jeebus.  As twolf1 said to me:  “no Iraq, only iRack”)

(Poster via nwistheone.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com