Democratic Messaging Inaction

As the debate surrounding the contraception ruling continues at the federal level, and the Virginia legislature continues its march of marginalizing women’s rights, I can’t help but be reminded of an earlier post about the failures of Democratic messaging.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a frame to the messaging coming from Democrats on these types of issues. Well, aside from the general “Republicans are crazy / We warned you, now look what happened” theme. But on a more serious note, what I hear from the liberal movement in general right now is:

  1. This is an assault on women’s rights
  2. Republicans as a whole are still the socially conservative culture warriors from the 80s-90s
  3. This is antithetical to their small government approach
  4. As a progressive, I have fought and will continue to fight against these things

Sometimes, I’ll hear number four explicitly, but more often than not that is implicit in the outrage.

The problem is that none of this calls back to a larger meta-platform of the Democratic party or the Progressive movement in general. Instead, it either falls into the categories of why you shouldn’t vote Republican, or sometimes addresses the specific problem of healthcare access. The latter gives no reason to vote for Democrats, while the latter is more policy than ideology. This is the equivalent of a company’s decisions being driven entirely by their next quarter’s profit margin. It is shortsighted, and will result in a great deal of missed opportunities.

Even as crazy as this issue sounds, because it ties directly back into the Republican party’s ideology, they are able to hold the line where they need. At the federal level, this is about the belief in small government. Small Government wouldn’t impose mandates on morally objecting religious organizations, just as Small Government wouldn’t try to takeover the healthcare system or destroy our economy via the environmental extremists at the EPA. Small Government gives you freedom and prosperity.

This is obviously an oversimplification of the issue, but the Democrats have an opportunity here to really win over some very concerned independent voters at the state and federal level, as well as build intensity in Democratic-leaning voters. But to make those changes last beyond the next election cycle, they’ve got to tie it into a larger narrative. They’ve got to tie it into an ideology.

I would love to hear a Democrat come out in support of the President on the contraception ruling because they support equal opportunity for all, and for many, birth control is out of their grasp. Without coverage, they can’t afford it. And we all deserve the opportunity to plan our families, we all deserve the opportunity to be healthy, and we all deserve the opportunity to make these decisions ourselves.

And any church or company or political group’s power to say otherwise should stop at that line of opportunity. Because when you deny any people these basic opportunities, you’re denying them the very things that make America the kind of place we all want to live, work, and raise those families.

“This week, President Obama will release a budget that won’t take any meaningful steps toward solving our entitlement crisis,” Romney said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. “The president has failed to offer a single serious idea to save Social Security and is the only president in modern history to cut Medicare benefits for seniors”.

It takes skill to say both of these lines back to back with a poker face.

Expanding weatherization assistance for low-income families was one of the the issues I worked most passionately on during my time in the world of environmental advocacy. After you’ve talked with folks who must regularly figure out whether to pay for medicine/groceries/etc that month or keep the heat/cooling on, there’s no other way you can work these issues.

Everyone thinks of a bunch of granola-eating hippies when they hear “environmentalism.” I think of these families, and a world where they and future generations all have the same opportunity for the pursuit of happiness that most of us take for granted today.

People ask why I’m a Democrat (and I counter that I’m actually more of a progressive, which isn’t just a subset thereof… but I digress), and at the end of the day, it’s stuff like this. We can both use different economic forecasting models, and believe America is on different sides of the Laffer Curve, but at the end of the day, I’m unwilling to budge on the belief that there’s a simple decency we need to extend to each and every person. We need to agree that no matter our circumstances, each of us is worthy of respect and equal treatment.

Now not every Republican or conservative supports the way these folks have voted, but that isn’t the point. From a meta-perspective, one party clearly works to enshrine these protections, while the other fights them outright or pretends the problems don’t exist. And when I need to come down on one side of the fence or the other, those values and priorities outshine all others in my book.