To convince voters, conservatives need to learn that it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

I spend ridiculous amounts of my time trying to convince my children that, while “Give me that!” and “May I have that, please”, mean the same thing, their chances of success are much greater with the second phrase.  I repeat ad nauseum that it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  People respond not only to a statement’s core message, but to the packaging around that message.

Advertisers have always understand that packaging is as important as, if not more important than, the underlying message.  Will a specific car, beer, or aftershave really turn an insecure, badly dressed young man into a sex God?  Of course not.  But if you’re a car manufacturer, and you have the choice of buying advertising hours that say to the young man “This car drives well” or spending those same dollars to say “You will be a suave chick magnet if you drive this car,” which ad would you choose?  Advertisers know that sex sells.  Or if sex is usable, “sell the sizzle, not the steak.”

1956 Monarch car advertisement

Politics is also a two-tiered structure.  There’s the product, or ideology, and there’s the sales pitch to sell that ideology to the greatest number of people in hopes of garnering their votes.  Democrats have fully mastered the sales pitch.  Republicans haven’t.  Democrats say “Look at this picture of dead children or pathetic (and perhaps dead too) minorities.”  Republicans say “Look!  We have a chart.”  Honestly! The last time charts made a difference was in the 1992 election, when Ross Perot whipped out his little pieces of cardboard — and back then, all those charts did was to tip the election in a Democrat’s favor.

There’s certainly a lot of data to drive Republican charts.  Indeed, back in 2011, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), put together a clever little video comparing Perot’s federal debt and spending charts to the numbers Perot would use if he were making the same pitch today:

I liked the video. You probably did too. The problem, though, is that you and I are high information voters who respond to facts and analysis. Though it pains me to say this, we are not the norm. The vast majority of people are probably never going to be high information voters in any society, but there’s also no doubt that a Leftist-controlled education system has rendered Americans almost incapable of either appreciating or understanding hard data.

As the 2012 election proved, facts on the ground (joblessness, flabby economy, disastrous foreign policies) are just too deep for most voters. Properly manipulated, they find it more emotionally satisfying to stick it to a mean rich man who puts dogs on car roofs and wants all women to carry their rapist’s fetus.

In this non-intellectual universe, it’s almost irrelevant what a political party’s message is. What matters is whether the party can position itself as the good guy party, regardless of its ideology, while simultaneously positioning the opposing party as the bad guy party. The Democrats do this masterfully.

As an example, think about the administration’s recent decision to put women on the front lines: Conservatives responded to this announcement with talk of military missions, battle readiness, logistical problems, changing standards, etc. — all of which are sensible and appropriate responses to an administrative fiat that will, more probably than not, have a negative effect upon military missions, battle readiness, logistics, and standards.

Women in combat

Democrats bypassed all that “tech talk” and, instead, went in for the kill: Republicans hate women. Never mind the unspoken part of that sentence, which is that “Republicans hate women, because they won’t allow women to go into situations where they are extremely likely to be killed and raped.” If you speak the unspoken, you get a very clear idea of Cloud Cuckoo Land that Leftist’s inhabit. But never mind about the reality behind the ideology — the Left sells sex and sizzle.

No doubt because I am the quintessential word person (although I have no knack for clever quips and pitches), I’ve been harping on this issue for years. When it comes to the Democrats and Progressives, there’s a message to their madness: We, the Democrats/Progressives are good; they, the Republicans/conservatives, are bad. Everything flows from that.

Fortunately, given that my voice has no resonance in world outside of my blog, better thinkers than I am are making the same point. David Horowitz, who understands Leftist thinking from the inside out, urges Republicans to stop the anguished, self-involved, navel gazing and to begin the hard work of communicating to voters in language they understand. He argues, correctly, that the Left is fighting an epic battle, complete with villains and heroes, and we’re still whipping out our gosh-darned charts.

Horowitz’s article, though long, is worth reading in its entirety. I’ll just leave you with a few of his conclusions:

A Winning Strategy for Republicans

1. Put the aggressors on the defensive.

2. Put their victims — women, minorities, the poor and working Americans -­-­ in front of every argument and every policy in the same way they do.

3. Start the campaign now (because the Democrats already have).

The Weapons of Politics Are Hope and Fear

The weapons of political campaigns are images and sound bites designed to inspire the emotions of fear and hope. Obama won the presidency in 2008 on a campaign of hope; he won re-election in 2012 on a campaign of fear.

Hope works, but fear is a much stronger and more compelling emotion. In a political campaign, it is directed at one’s political opponent. Democrats exploit this emotion to the hilt; Republicans often seem too polite to even use it.

Please read the rest here.

Lee Habeeb and Mike Leven are also engaged in the work of using a prominent forum (National Review Online) to publish a series of articles aimed at shaping a coherent, and salable, political narrative for conservatives.  This week’s installment is “The Moral Case for Conservativism.”

As with Horowitz, Habeeb and Leven urge a level of public discourse that avoids charts and data, and that frames an epic battle in the same way that Progressives claim politics as an epic battle — except that, in this version, we’re the good guys:

If there is a single reason why conservatives continue to lose the battle of ideas, it’s because we don’t make the moral case for freedom and free markets. Our political class instead makes the economic case for our philosophy. Our smart guys are so impressed with their own intelligence, they think we can win the debate using numbers and data, charts and graphs, and political tactics and strategy.

It’s the Left’s secret advantage. They create the feeling that they care more about the average American because they make the moral case for their philosophy.

One of the advantages this confers on the Left is this: They get to play large ball, while we play a dour brand of small ball.

As with Horowitz’s article, I urge you to read the whole thing.

Those of us who spend our time following politics understand that we are engaged in a battle for America’s heart and soul.  On one side is an ideology that dreams of subordinating the individual to an all-powerful state.  History proves that this has never turned out well.  On the other side is an ideology that dreams of allowing each individual maximum freedom in a state that exerts minimum coercion but that, instead, provides a stable infrastructure and a level playing field.  Our own history demonstrates how successful this approach is.

Put another way, life is imitating Star Wars, with an epic battle taking place over America’s future.  We’d better call our agents and make sure that they let the audience know that we’re the rebels, not the Empire.  Once we’ve established that we’re the good guys, we — the ordinary people who aren’t paid political operatives — need to put on our thinking caps and figure out how we can contribute to winning this battle.

Still clearing the spindle (this may take awhile)

I winnowed down half of my emails yesterday, but still have more than 200 to go.  Some of them, I’m embarrassed to admit, date back to early-ish December.  Those that I’m linking to here are still relevant, though, so don’t be deterred by my delay in posting them.  Also, heads up to those who wrote to me a month ago:  You may finally be getting your reply!  I’ll start with a handful of posts from today, and then start digging into the past:

In his inimitable style, Jonah Goldberg reminds us that, when it comes to guns, as with all things, the perfect is the enemy of the good.  (And if you’d like to read an older book that focuses on the deleterious effects on society from the bureaucrat’s futile, expensive, and Kafka-esque search for perfection, read Philip K. Howard’s The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America.)

Orwell wouldn’t be surprised if he returned from the dead today and found himself on Carleton University’s campus in Canada.  Within hours of students putting up a free speech wall, an “activist” student in his 7th year (that’s not a typo) ripped it down, loudly declaiming that “not every opinion is valid, nor deserving of expression.”  Orwell, of course, phrased it better when he said that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

We’re taking a moment here for an important public health announcement:  If you’re a woman heading towards or already going through menopause, estrogen therapy not only will not kill you, it will make your life better and, possibly, protect you from certain cancers.  I anxiously look forward (heh!) to the moment when scientists announce that their widely expressed fears about anthropogenic climate change were also wrong, and that we can all stop panicking now.

I’m always embarrassed when I think back to the way I used to admire Thomas Friedman’s faux-sophistication.  Fortunately, as I’ve grown older, I’ve distinguished myself from Friedman by growing wiser too.  That’s why I appreciated this absolutely splendid attack on his most recent idiocy, this one concerning Iran.

Ed Driscoll looks at the icky sexuality and childish adulation that describes so much of the elite Left’s attachment to Obama.  Would it be wrong of me to say that the first part of this way of thinking is a direct lineal descendent of the Democrats’ Jim Crow and slavery approach to blacks, one that saw them view black men fearfully as hyper-sexual beings?

My personal road to Hell is heavily paved with good intentions.  Among those good intentions are book reviews.  I’m fortunate enough to receive books in the mail or on my iPad, and I do really and truly intend to review them.  Somehow, though, the mere phrase “book review” sends me spinning back to 7th grade, and I start procrastinating like crazy.  While I’m procrastinating, I’ll at least give you the link to a very interesting, timely, and somewhat worrisome book that came my way:  Larry Kelley’s Lessons from Fallen Civilizations: Can a Bankrupt America Survive the Current Islamic Threat?.  I won’t give away the ending.  You have to read it yourself, keeping in mind that it was written before Obama’s reelection.

If you thought that the Left is seldom right, you are correct, as this 40 minute video explains.

One of the things the Left does very successfully is to celebrate things that didn’t used to be celebrated (gay marriage, unmarried mothers, etc.).  This GAP Christmas ad campaign is a good example.  As is so often the case when it comes to message, we need to take a page out of the Left’s book.  Instead of constantly challenging their celebrations (challenges that are often divisive when it comes to social conservatives and libertarians), why don’t we start celebrating things we like.  In other words, let’s catch society being good.  When you go on social networks, including new conservative entrants such as Helen’s Page or Ritely, don’t just fulminate about the Left or even praise only conservatives.  Highlight something cheerful and positive that also advances traditional values.

Okay.  I’m down to 175 emails.  More later.  Right now, I’m meeting some conservative gals for lunch.  Yay!

Is it me, or is this a very bad picture for an advertisement?

When I checked out Hot Air today, I saw this side bar advertisement:


My very first thought was “I didn’t know T.G.I. Friday’s made condoms.” My second thought was, “Why the heck is T.G.I. Friday’s offering condoms as part of its entrees, appetizers, or desserts advertising. It took me several passes before I realized that the picture shows a cardboard coaster bearing the watermark of a glass.

Do I have a dirty mind (which is entirely possible) or is that a really bad image?  Or maybe it’s a good subliminal image.  Those of us who are a certain age remember a famous book that assured the American public that every single advertisement contained subliminal images, usually of naked ladies in ice cubes.  Madison Avenue didn’t sell either sizzle or steak, said the book, it sold secret sex.  Maybe that’s the message here:  Come to T.G.I. Friday’s and get lucky!

Who wants to help me meme a boycott? *UPDATED*

Drudge announced today that ABC news is going to use its June 24, 2009 broadcast to shill for Obama’s attempt to nationalize health care:

On the night of June 24, the media and government become one, when ABC turns its programming over to President Obama and White House officials to push government run health care — a move that has ignited an ethical firestorm!

Highlights on the agenda:

ABCNEWS anchor Charlie Gibson will deliver WORLD NEWS from the Blue Room of the White House.

The network plans a primetime special — ‘Prescription for America’ — originating from the East Room, exclude opposing voices on the debate.

Even when it speaks in its defense, ABC describes its “news” program as a giant advertisement for ObamaCare:

ABCNEWS Senior Vice President Kerry Smith on Tuesday responded to the RNC complaint, saying it contained ‘false premises’:

“ABCNEWS prides itself on covering all sides of important issues and asking direct questions of all newsmakers — of all political persuasions — even when others have taken a more partisan approach and even in the face of criticism from extremes on both ends of the political spectrum. ABCNEWS is looking for the most thoughtful and diverse voices on this issue.

“ABCNEWS alone will select those who will be in the audience asking questions of the president. Like any programs we broadcast, ABC News will have complete editorial control. To suggest otherwise is quite unfair to both our journalists and our audience.”

And speaking of advertising….

The United States of America is still a capitalist country.  The marketplace can speak loudly — and in this case it should.  All Americans who are opposed to a major media arm becoming a visible branch of the presidential political machine should take a vow that they will boycott any products advertised on ABC News.

This boycott should be bipartisan.  It’s not about the health care agenda.  It’s about keeping a free media.  No more bowing Brians, please.

UPDATE:  Welcome, Fox News readers.  Please feel welcome to leave comments, but be advised that I do moderate for threats and obscenity.  I understand that people can feel strongly about issues, but I like my blog to be a place for civil discourse.

UPDATE II:  If I’ve started something here, I’m going to have to watch some ABC news, aren’t I?  I haven’t watched the show in about 20 years, since its reporting from Israel tended already then to be bullying Israelis versus pathetic Palestinians.  That wasn’t news, it was soap opera.  But I digress.  If any of you know which companies advertise there, let me know.  Otherwise I’ll hold my nose and check it out.

As it is, a few years ago, ABC looked at the issue of the advertisers themselves boycotting shows (emphasis mine):

Two advertisers rejecting a show is likely not enough to lead to any type of cancellation. But if advertisers leave a show en masse, they can have a significant impact.

[snip]

Sheri Broyles, a professor of advertising at the University of North Texas, said that the marketplace typically will sort out these types of issues.

If viewers find the material offensive, she said, they will change the channel or shut off their TV. Without strong ratings, shows will be pulled off the air.

Likewise, if someone clearly crosses a line, Broyles said, advertisers will bail and a show will be canceled like Imus’ show [after his nasty remark about the Rutgers' team], for example.

[snip]

A two-part miniseries by CBS called “The Reagans,” based on the former president and his wife, took heat from conservatives who considered the show unfair to the couple. They persuaded advertisers to drop their support. The show was moved off network TV and ran on Showtime to a much smaller audience.

UPDATE III: In case you’re wondering why a boycott would be useful here, I recommend this post about the danger of presidential power that, owing to a compliant media, is unconstrained.  Also, with regard to Obama’s lack of restraint when it comes to changing our health care to a socialized model, check out what the Confederate Yankee has to say.

Uncontrolled Presidential Power is Inherently Totalitarian in Nature

UPDATE IV:  Nathan left a good comment:

It’s true that a group of pajama clad bloggers could watch ABC between now and June 24th.  They could assemble a list of advertisers.  They could send this list on a viral journey throughout the blogosphere.  Talk radio could tell listeners where to get the list off the internet.  This is too complicated and unfocused.

Here is another way.  ABC is part of the larger Disney conglomerate.  I think a more effective boycott may be to go for the jugular and boycott the many products put out by Disney itself.  Just go here and you can see how many there are.

http://disney.go.com/index

Parents might heave a sigh of relief at finally having a moral reason to say no to their kids’ “I want” when it comes to Disney products.

UPDATE V:  Thanks, MadAsHell for gathering the names of some advertisers:  Carson Pirie Scott, Amstel Light, Outback, Ford, Verizon, Southwest Airlines (shame on them),Subaru, Panera, Honda, JC Penney, PNC, and Lowes.