Democrats and Soundbites

There’s this sort of conventional wisdom that Democrats “suck at soundbites,” in the words of DailyKos.

And perhaps what’s even more interesting than Democrats being terrible at expressing themselves succinctly is the commonly given reason for this shortcoming –

Liberals want you to understand an issue.

That is to say, liberals care too much about understanding an issue to condense it into a soundbite. They’re too precise, to concerned with the details. Conservatives, on the other hand, have a shaky relationship with the truth and therefore have no qualms with hawking their wares through misrepresentation or lies of omission.

Liberals appeal to reason, conservatives appeal to instinct.

Whoa. Now let’s back up a little bit.

I’ve no interest today in starting a fight about liberal and conservative campaign tactics.

But I am interested in this idea – whether it’s true or not – that Democrats are worse at soundbites because they care too much about understanding an issue.

The statement itself implies that Republican tactics – while perhaps more effective – are somehow less moral, less becoming of a free and democratic society.

And yet that’s the line I hear over and over again in postmortems on candidate or issue campaigns. Or at least one ones we lose.

Well of course we lost. We try to actually explain issues and that doesn’t translate well into a sound bite. There’s no chance for the average voter to understand what we’re trying to say.

Now, being wildly liberal myself, I’m in no position to objectively evaluate the truth in that statement, but what’s interesting is – in itself it is a sort of soundbite. A positioning that Democrats and liberals can rally around.

We’re the smart party. We’re the moral party. We’re the ones who are trying to build an informed society.

And almost by default – the other guys aren’t. They’re the used car salesmen willing to say anything to get you to buy a lemon.

It plays into Democrats’ whole mythos of who they are and what they stand for.

Perhaps this mythos isn’t effective beyond the base of the Democratic party, but it does show that Democrats are fully capable of articulating a single, simple idea that can catch on and become a common conventional wisdom.

…Now if only we could do this more.


One thought on “Democrats and Soundbites

  1. Brandy

    I view it as the political equivalent of the following chant we’d throw out at my nerd high school whenever we lost a football game: “That’s alright, that’s OK; you’re going to work for us someday.” It was a deflection, a way to make ourselves still feel superior despite the fact that we sucked at football – never mind that football, and not future job roles, was the actual issue at hand. Also, never mind the egregious assumptions behind that chant.

    Similarly, Democrats like to deflect from their failures at communicating coherently to voters by trying to think themselves into superiority on another front – never mind the appalling and off-putting assumption that they are the only intelligent, moral people on the playing field. (Election #protip: insulting voters who disagree with you by implying that they are either gullible bumpkins or happily in league with the devil doesn’t tend to gain their support.) It’s a distraction to keep from having to deal with real problems in the way they present themselves and their platforms. And it will keep being a real problem until they get off their imaginary high horse and actually learn how to talk to other people outside the echo chamber.


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