“What we have here is a failure to communicate!” **
I have not heard the failure of the Republican campaigns spelled out specifically this way. The catchphrase of the day is there was no ‘message’. But even where there was a message, there was a pretty awful attempt made to convey it to the public.
Ronald Reagan (Saint Ronnie?) had a nickname. He was The Great Communicator. Simple speaking style. Use of props when appropriate. Got the message across. People nodded their heads and went, “Yup, that’s what it is.” Contrast that with Dubya’s reputation as the Great Incommunicationater. Ouch! Painful to listen to. McCain could do better, but I’ll get into the McCain selection later.
First point. You have to talk to, not talk at, the audience. The “unrepentant terrorist” meme was nice, the first time. After about a month of, “He hangs out with…”, I was screaming at the TV, “SO WHAT!” It was like watching someone speaking English to a non-English speaking person by repeating the same phrase more loudly. The problem with the message was that the McCain campaign people were shocked…SHOCKED I tell ya’…by the association. Simply saying “He hangs out with…” was sufficient proof of questionable character. But after a week, anybody who felt the association was sufficient proof had already been convinced. The rest of the potential audience were like me going, “So what?” Except probably quieter and not throwing cats at the TV. The campaign needed to move on to the next effect which was that there was a pattern of behavior of hanging out with radicals and that behavior should seriously bring into question the moderate positions The One assumed. But the McCain campaign never got past their own perception. They were talking to themselves.
Second. Complex issues can be captured in simple phrases. “The business of America is business.” People need to be reminded. This can be followed with, “No business = No jobs” The response to every mention of creating jobs should have been, “Not if you destroy the employers.” Instead we get harangues about the ‘Greed of Wall Street’. Uhg.
Third. Conservatives in particular have to assume that people are smart and capable of processing data if it’s given to them. Having failed to comprehend a class on Complex Differential Equations, I totally understand that the packaging of complex information is important. The whole precept of conservatism is that people need/are/should be responsible for themselves. But when a conservative campaign assumes that people can’t process complex information, have to be fed slogans in 30 second sound bites, and generally dumbed down to; then the fight is over and the liberals are right in believing that the unwashed masses have to be taken care of by their betters. Conservatives/Republicans have to stop ceding the battlefield to the left…but that will probably be a future post.
** This is the classic line from the ancientclassic Paul Newman movie, Cool Hand Luke, which I saw when it first came out in 1967. Consequently, if the quote is not exact, tough…I saw the movie once 41 years ago. It was TABV – The Age Before Videos.