Conservatives face the messaging obstacle of explaining abstract concepts that do not lend themselves well to our sound bite media culture, and we must emulate marketing agencies to creatively translate our ideas into clever taglines easily understood and remembered by voters.
Chemical giant BASF funded a clever marketing campaign several years ago with the tagline “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better.” The takeaway was that consumers don’t realize the chemicals that are necessary to create the products they buy as they are an abstract component. The marketing challenge was to translate this abstract idea of industrial chemicals into a tangible idea easily grasped by consumers. Consumers could see the products presented in the commercials and understand they were tangible items, then the advertising copy went on to cleverly explain that these products had become enhanced through the addition of chemicals produced by BASF. The light bulb came on and consumers understood the abstract idea of BASF chemicals improving characteristics of these products.
Conservatives face the same challenge in the political world. How do we explain abstract conservative political concepts to a public that has grown up bombarded with advertising and whose attention spans have shrunk through technology? Current political messaging comes from political consultants employing many of the same tools familiar to marketers such as focus groups, polling, and commercials, but they approach advertising creativity purely from the political point of view with very little of the insight of commercial advertising agencies.
Add to this the fact that Democrats structure their political advertising around emotional messages that are far more effective at grabbing voter attention than some abstract idea and you start to appreciate the challenge faced by conservatives. While advertising by law must be truthful, advertisers employ myriad tools to lead consumers into implications about a product just as Democrats use emotion to sway voters against conservative policies. Democrats often go a step further and outright lie to voters such as when President Obama promised voters “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” The gradual breakdown of morality in our society has led voters to cynically expect such lying from politicians, although not this boldly, but this is usually held somewhat in check when it comes to advertising since it is subject to fact checking and FEC regulations.
Democrats are practiced at reducing issues to individualized emotional appeals whereby an affected voter explains how alleviation of their hardship rests on passage or blockage of some legislation before Congress completely ignoring the constitutionality of that legislation. Conservatives are left making the opposing case on the basis of boring abstract concepts such as the constitutionality of the law or the equally abstract idea of how this small piece of legislation sets the pattern for additional government interference in one’s private life or additional loss of personal freedom. The conservative message resonates more effectively when we can show something as egregious as a child suspended from school for biting his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun and point out the extent of government overreach into our lives. For every Newtown massacre incident, the NRA effectively counters with personal stories of gun usage saving lives when employed against aggressive criminals.
There is a growing consensus among Americans that the progressive agenda sold by Democrats under the rubric of benevolent government assistance is actually government interference and totalitarianism under a different name. This idea has been crystallized by passage and enactment of the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. Americans who thought they were going to get something for nothing are seeing their current health insurance plans being cancelled, health insurance premiums skyrocketing, and the purchase of health insurance being made unnecessarily more complex. Every promise made by progressives, Democrats, and the Obama administration concerning ObamaCare is being shown to be drastically false, and Americans have awakened to a nightmare concerning a life-and-death area that has left them angry, bitter, and vengeful towards Democrats this election cycle.
There are a number of other episodes perpetrated by the Obama administration that conservatives need to weave together into a coherent message on the loss of liberty stemming from the progressive agenda. Voters cognizant of the ill effects of ObamaCare are susceptible to such a conservative message that explains the danger of progressive policies and highlights the benefits of conservatism in protecting personal liberty. Progressive Democrats have badly overreached and aroused the interest of voters in a bad way by overpromising and under delivering on a life and death issue. Now that we conservatives have their attention, we should also highlight other areas of government overreach such as the Labor Department support of unionization efforts at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Tennessee where workers freely rejected union representation only to see the Labor Department intervene on behalf of the union to question the vote.
There is the EPA campaign to regulate out of existence the use of coal for electricity production, thus driving up energy costs for Americans while the Energy Department wastes billions on failed solar companies whose investors are politically connected cronies of the Obama administration. These actions directly harm small businesses and consumers by inflating costs through the artificial involvement of government in the marketplace. Add to this the progressive denigration of wealth that flows from the American concept of entrepreneurs having the opportunity to succeed, and the idea quickly becomes apparent that personal liberty has been infringed when opportunities are closed to small businesses while the progressives protect the interests of their favored big business politically connected cronies.
The Obama administration has wasted trillions of dollars on stimulus plans that have done nothing other than funnel money to politically connected cronies. This contrivance mortgaged the future of successive Americans in a Ponzi scheme of generational theft just as ObamaCare blatantly does with respect to health insurance, all in an effort to propagate middle class dependence on government entitlement programs and increase the power of Democrats over the electoral process.
Most blatant and egregious of all are President Obama’s threats to circumvent our elected congressional representatives in the Legislative Branch to unilaterally issue executive orders as some imperial authority. Not only is President Obama willfully ignoring those laws with which he disagrees by instructing Attorney General Eric Holder to cease enforcement, now he seeks to create new laws out of thin air in another thoroughly unconstitutional manner. President Obama obtains de facto amnesty by ordering a halt to deportations of illegal aliens while issuing an executive order for an expansion of the overtime rules to drive up wages, thus driving up costs for small businesses, undermining our border control, and generally wreaking havoc in the marketplace. What other reason could there be for amnesty support when 95 million Americans are unemployed?
Conservatives need to develop a coherent message that weaves together these examples of progressive tyranny around the theme of loss of personal liberty from an increasingly expanding government Americans no longer need and can no longer support. We must be creative enough in our messaging to convey the benefits from abstract conservative concepts such as thrift, personal liberty, and family values with equal weight to both fiscal and social conservatism to amply demonstrate the folly of the progressive agenda. And, we must do so in a way that captures the imagination of voters while taking advantage of the opening provided by the progressive overreach of ObamaCare to devastating effect.