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January 02, 2006

Idiots 08

From Hotline On Call's 06 List:

Best Good Question To Which I Don't Yet Have An Answer: IA Gov. Tom Vilsack, who asks in a Heartland PAC e-mail "What are your ten words that define the Democratic Party's message?

Can someone please explain to me why a major political party in the world's most powerful country should be able to define it's message in ten words? That last sentence took 27 words, and yet Democrats are supposed to condense their positions on an intractable conflict in the Middle East, global warming, the disintegration of the corporate welfare state, the globalized economy, health care, the deficit, and everything else into ten?

That both Democrats and the media seem to have judged this a crucial skill is, to me, by far the most bizarre and inexplicable obsession in contemporary politics. Any political party that can sum themselves up in fewer words than have elapsed since my last punctuation mark simply hasn't thought about the issues enough to warrant my support. It's a good thing to communicate clearly, but the median voter isn't a seven-year-old who forgot to take his ritalin. No one ever accused Bill Clinton of brevity, yet voters understood him just fine.

Update: Since it seems we're going to have a conversation about what the ten words should be, remember, they can't just be ten awesome words. They have to be ten words Republicans don't agree with. If your opponent could stand on a stage and agree with your agenda, it's not a definition, it's a platitude. I had a post on this problem awhile back, and I guess it's relevant again now.

January 2, 2006 | Permalink

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» 10 words from Political Animal
10 WORDS....I'm glad to see the fine folks at National Journal's Hotline are back after a holiday break with a pretty good round-up of political/campaign news from the last two weeks. But like Ezra, I thought one of the items... [Read More]

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» The ten-word challenge from The Reality-Based Community
A slogan for the Democrats: Honest, competent, Constitutional government to defend the country, families, liberty, and the environment. [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 2, 2006 5:01:40 PM

» Ten Words from DrewMiller.net
Wow, it looks like Tom Vilsack's Ten Words concept is really starting to take off; it's getting support and opposition from some pretty big blogs. (Also noted is the point that Republicans may have their ten words, but they don't... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 3, 2006 3:13:58 AM

» Defining the Right Thing from The Talent Show
Every once in a while, when my friends and I are drunk, we get into heated discussions about meaningless bullshit. Subjects like whether the Monkees should be considered a "bubblegum band", if the Simpsons has jumped the shark, or whether... [Read More]

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Comments

If we're going to do it, though, I move that at least one of the ten words be ain't.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jan 2, 2006 3:04:12 PM

The purpose of all liberal parties is to protect everyone else from the most powerful.

That's a difficult message in "the world's most powerful country."

Posted by: Gary Sugar | Jan 2, 2006 3:10:22 PM

Sorry, Gary, you exceeded the ten-word limit, and are disqualified.

How about (for the special case of Geoge W. Bush):

The US is a nation of laws, and not of men.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Jan 2, 2006 4:31:35 PM

You exceeded ten words too, Jim. Bummer.

Posted by: Ezra | Jan 2, 2006 4:50:46 PM

The USA is a nation of laws, not of men.

(10, ten, 1x10, count um).

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Jan 2, 2006 4:54:34 PM

It doesn't have to be a sentence... Do you think it's a bad thing to try and be able to clearly and simply communicate your ideals?

Posted by: Drew Miller | Jan 2, 2006 4:58:12 PM

Yeah Jim, it was the "and" holding you back. And Drew, read the last sentence of my post again. Clarity is not a function of word count.

Posted by: Ezra | Jan 2, 2006 5:00:05 PM

In a world where attention span is decreasing ever faster, the ability to assert your position in a minimum amount of words is crucial. If you can't make your point and shut up, people aren't going to pay attention to you.

Posted by: shoelimpy™ | Jan 2, 2006 5:01:58 PM

Well, I guess since the GOP can state their message in less than 10 words - "Vote for us or terrorists will kill you" - everyone expects the other party to be able to do that as well, for some reason.

Posted by: Dadahead | Jan 2, 2006 5:09:19 PM

*sigh* To protect everyone else from the most powerful.

But again, I don't believe it will sell here.

Posted by: Gary Sugar | Jan 2, 2006 5:10:48 PM

How about this: "We're not lunatics."

Posted by: Dadahead | Jan 2, 2006 5:11:38 PM

Security for the vulnerable, accountability for the powerful.

Posted by: Rasselas | Jan 2, 2006 5:17:54 PM

"Well, I guess since the GOP can state their message in less than 10 words - "Vote for us or terrorists will kill you" - everyone expects the other party to be able to do that as well, for some reason."

That slogan worked for the Republicans in 2002 and 2004.

Democrats have to be able to get their message out to the people succinctly if they wish to win in 2006.

Posted by: shoelimpy™ | Jan 2, 2006 5:21:34 PM

I don't know that it's possible to out-stupid the Republicans, though.

Not that brevity = stupidity, not by any means. But simplicity has its limits. Like Einstein (supposedly) said: "Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler."

Posted by: Dadahead | Jan 2, 2006 5:26:10 PM

But again, I don't believe it will sell here.

That's been the problem all along. Instead of disguising the snake-oil, why not have ideas that are of the people and for the people. In other words, give the people what they want. What a novel idea.
Instead, you have ideas that are so unpopular that you must constantly run from identification with them. Egalitarianism, collectivism, socialism, big government solutions, gun control, queer marriage, eradication of God from public life, etc....... And you bang your head when you lose elections and say:

Democrats have to be able to get their message out to the people succinctly if they wish to win in 2006.

*HELLO*......your ideas get out just fine. It isn't the megaphone, it's the message on the record that stinks.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Jan 2, 2006 5:34:45 PM

What I remember from the last election is Kerry saying he was "going to raise taxes on those making over $200,000"....the rest of his platform was a half-assed melange of ideas.....I don't think the Democrats need to to have a ten word mission statement like that, I think they need a few solid ideas with substance--for instance a universal healthcare plan-- with the implementation strategy to back it up....I mean the Democrats want to win the next election because they want to make the system better, not because they just want to win the election, right?

Posted by: Steve Mudge | Jan 2, 2006 5:35:30 PM

Clean Government, by the people, for the people.

aimai

Posted by: aimai | Jan 2, 2006 5:59:47 PM

I'd also like to point out that all attempts to reduce an actual *platform* to ten words, or a realistic policy set to ten words, are doomed to failure. What the dems lack that the repugs have is a set of words associated with a "good feeling." Its not even a slogan, its more of an all purpose fragrance that we are trying to combat. What republicans have sold people is a set of losely connected phrases
"lower taxes, less government, individual freedom, anti communism" whatever.
Then they've worked to associate those words with iconic images (morning in america, the marlboro man, the flag) that already do the work of making the viewer feel good. For example, the phrase "lower taxes" to me means crumbling schools, pot holes in the roads, homeless people on the streets, shuttered libraries. Those are, to me, implicit in the words "lower taxes." The republicans have simply evaded or elided the plaim meaning of the words they use by bolstering the false meaning with equally false advertising.

If the dems don't do that, too, they can't win because the words don't matter, its the total "feelign soup" of advertising, image, history and words that matter.

aimai

Posted by: aimai | Jan 2, 2006 6:03:48 PM

Freedom: of worship, of speech, from want and from fear.

There, that doesn't leave out too much.

Posted by: Omar K. Ravenhurst | Jan 2, 2006 6:09:42 PM

a realistic policy set to ten words, are doomed to failure

Heh. "Out of Iraq. Health care now. Fix global warming."

Posted by: Gary Sugar | Jan 2, 2006 6:13:19 PM

Ten words:

Balanced budgets, equal opportunity, rule of law, security through strength.

I'd love it if our national security message could be "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

To me, the invasion of Iraq was quite obviously a panic attack. Bush missed bin Laden at Tora Bora. He was already afraid of Hussein because Hussein tried to kill his daddy, so he panicked. He was afraid he'd lose Hussein like he lost bin Laden, so he sent in the entire army to go chase down nuclear weapons that didn't exist.

His panic got us to where we are now. It was fear and incompetence.

Posted by: theorajones | Jan 2, 2006 6:20:26 PM

Fred Jones - you'll note that it's the GOP that has to hide their agenda during campaigns.

Hence 'compassionate conservativism', etc.

Posted by: Dadahead | Jan 2, 2006 6:41:34 PM

Responsible government, personal liberty and accountability. I think all we stand for can be rolled into this.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope | Jan 2, 2006 7:05:20 PM

The Republicans care about money; the Democrats care about people.

Posted by: Katherine Calkin | Jan 2, 2006 7:23:43 PM

Pro enemy, anti business, state ownership, ever larger government unions

Posted by: JackM | Jan 2, 2006 7:39:00 PM

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