If you think Democrats and progressives suck at messaging, you won't get any argument from me. I can't tell you the number of opportunities we've missed over the years. The whole "Defund the Police" fiasco is just the latest example of failing to get the basics of language and branding right. Nobody's in charge, and a lot of stupid stuff happens.
I was in marketing for 40 years and have a pretty good record of finding words that work in a business context. My clients used to pay me a boatload of money, and they actually listened to my suggestions. That's not true in progressive politics, though. There's nobody TO listen. Our center-left political system is a giant, innovation-free bureaucracy, prone to manipulation by monied interests and con men. Big moves and significant change are nearly impossible.
But that doesn't mean they can't happen.
For example, consider what would happen if the Democratic Party were to refresh its brand as suggested in the title of this post. That could even happen on a trial basis, as in the 2022 cycle. Instead of signaling to the world that we're the same-old same-old schtick, we could actually stand for something big and important: Democracy.
There are dozens of brilliant benefits that could come from this kind of branding refresh, and no downside that I can see. And it could happen quickly and easily. President Biden could simply announce that he's behind the idea of crystal clarity: Democrats stand for Democracy.
(If you've bothered to read this, you may be thinking "what's the big deal. Democratic Party vs Democracy Party? Who cares? Trust me. There's a huge difference between the two and that difference might just be enough to change the world. )
Plugging away on The Democracy Party
One of my problems is I get stuck on things. Especially ideas that I think have transformative potential. I've fallen for this idea. Here's an email I sent to some of our legislators this morning:
Jane and I just contributed a total of $500 to support your work We'll be out of town for the event, but will be there in spirit.
I appreciate your feedback on The Democracy Party. I'm going to push it as hard as I can. Here's why:
We Democrats spend way too much energy and time on technical / policy messaging. It's our strong suit, but it gets in the way of connecting with hearts and souls. Our talking points don't add up to inspiration. What we stand for gets lost in our insistence on explaining everything.
By changing "Democratic" to "Democracy," we solve that problem simply. Instead of pulling out this or that talking point, we get to jump straight to what matters most right now in our state and in our country. The preservation of our democracy.
I could elaborate, but what counts more at this moment is your gut instinct. You like the idea. Everybody I've discussed this with thinks it's solid messaging. They also think it won't happen because of inertia and egos. That's why I'm asking for your help.
This should happen now. This is the time for disruptive change.
People on all sides are saying our democracy is at risk. That we're facing an existential threat like none before. So let's do something about it. Let's reboot our party and our brand around what matters most. Preserving democracy.
I know you have a lot to do. I know you're busy dialing for dollars and trying to make sausage and dealing with the frustration of too much bureaucracy. But if I may be so bold, there is nothing more important than finding a way to elevate "preserving democracy" as our core promise. I think "The Democracy Party" does just that.
I hope you will guide me as I try to make this happen, or better yet, take it on as your own.
The biggest challenge I see
is the enormity of the change, which would almost have to be done on a national level, wouldn't it? Unless it's just a branding effort, and not an actual change in the party designation, which would affect election ballots and FEC stuff, possibly in all 50 states.
Promoting the word Democracy is a fantastic idea, and something we should have been doing already.
“Doing business as.”
I’m James Alexander Protzman. People call me James, Jimmy, Protz, JA, and worse.
So yeah, it’s just branding. But some of us think branding is everything.
I put this idea in front of dozens of Democratic leaders, and none of them have taken it seriously. It’s not that they don’t like the idea, they do, they just have bigger fish to fry, so to speak. I doing so, they lose sight of a giant whale that’s menacing right now. It’s a shame, but it’s business as usual for Democrats who can’t see the forest for the trees. Pardon my mixed metaphors.