Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Democracy needs a marketing plan

A week ago Monday there was a sit-in on the Capitol steps in Washington. Participants call their movement Democracy Spring and their aim is to get Congress to listen to them instead of big corporations. Their specific demands are limiting undisclosed money, restoring the Voter Rights Act, and ending gerrymandering. 400 people were arrested.

Did you hear much about it in the news? Me neither.

The protest has prompted comments from David Akadjian of Daily Kos. He says the protest is important because because it highlights a breakdown in democracy that actually got a bit of news exposure. It is important because so many issues in the news relate to important aspects of democracy or because democracy is breaking down. The problem, according to Akadjian is most of these issues are not presented as a breakdown of democracy but the normal way America does business.

Some examples:

Democracy in the news
* Changes in the Chicago police department to counter racism.

Breakdown of democracy
* The release of the Panama Papers.

* Donald Trump criticizing the rules of the Republican Convention.

* Turbo Tax blocking reforms that would simplify filing taxes.

Akadjian turns to how political messages do their selling. First a quote from Simon Sinek:
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
The GOP is good at starting with why and moving to the how and what. They start with ideas and move to policy.
We want you to be more free. To do this, we need to shrink government. The way to do this is to cut taxes and subsequently government programs.
Yeah, there are several leaps and outright disconnects in logic. But the average voter (alas) doesn't catch that.

Democrats have a tough sell because they leave off the why, even if the rest of their message has impeccable logic behind great policy.

Back to democracy. Akadjian says currently in America the power flows from corporations to government to people. It is a flow that people recognize – at least they recognize the system doesn't work for them. Then there is democracy where the power flows from people to gov't to corporations. This is the why. Corporations and gov't are to benefit the people.

In this context a politician can easily define the why of getting money out of politics, of voter rights, of eliminating gerrymandering, of public education, of corporate regulations. This context also shows the absurdity of reducing government. A smaller gov't doesn't change the flow of power from corporations, it only hinders it less. The size of gov't has nothing to do with how well it serves the people.

Though democracy has been around for a long while, perhaps modern democracy needs a marketing plan. Corporations have put a lot of marketing dollars into the idea of small government and their definition of freedom (meaning: for me, not you). Their small gov't idea makes possible privatization, cheap labor, cutting benefits, tax handouts for the wealthy, and money in politics.

But if progressives began by building a marketing plan around democracy, we could build policy around that idea, things like property and services for community benefit, labor earning a living wage, health care for all, tax handouts for those who need it, and politics for the people.

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