It’s great to have principle. It’s great to have focus, a leader, even a message backed up by solid policy. But if you can’t sell what you’re saying, you’ve lost the battle before it starts. Republicans seething over the president’s prime time network health care special are catching on as they claw their way back to relevancy.
It’s been among the struggles facing the conservative movement, as stealth yet strategic-thinking Democrats are proving better showmen, salesmen and all around smooth talkers in selling what the public is buying. It doesn’t help Republicans that the Democrats’ main message man is extremely “likable,” even if his policies aren’t. That he has, (using the words of Newt Gingrich), “internal rallies” (as opposed to press conferences) to hammer the Democratic message home in the daytime, prime time, all the time - is icing on the message-mastery cake.
Before I even had a chance to run my own message experiment past Gingrich for an interview with reporters and editors at The Washington Times today, I noticed that he already got the memo. Early into the discussion the former Speaker of the House was eager to hone in on the controversial environmental/climate bill expected to be voted on in Congress this week. He consistently referred to it as a “huge energy tax increase.” Rare wording from a Republican. There was no mention of the “cap-and-trade” argument frequently bandied about by conservatives in opposition of the plan. Neither cap nor trade ever crossed his lips. I pointed out to Gingrich how The Washington Times recently reported that Democratic lawmakers are tweaking their environmental legislation wording at the urging of strategists who found that voters don’t get “cap-and-trade.” The term actually turns them off. Even liberals’ famed “global warming” phrasing is a non-starter. The Democratic strategists found words like “energy” and “climate bill” were better labels. And while conservatives may have a valid, even better argument for why the bill is a bad idea, it won’t matter if their message gets lost among the masses. Gingrich told me he definitely recognizes the “power of language,” and it would behoove Republicans to take back the reins reminiscent of the days of “The Great Communicator.”
While Gingrich himself can be found capitalizing on lessons learned in MARKETING 101, Republicans have not only taken hits for a “lack of leadership” but for the failure to articulate a message with which supporters can rally around. Sure its tough in the midst of an Obama-obsessed media culture, but as the argument goes, if they had something to say other than “no,” they might be heard. There is credibility to that argument. Yet, if the GOP’s most recent assault is any indication, it can also be argued that the message may be getting some traction if not some momentum.
After the ABC Network kicked the RNC to the curb by refusing to run a counter message to today’s Obama-thon, the Party decided to launch this web ad. What makes it stand out more than others, is that it doesn’t simply criticize or tell you what’s wrong with the administration’s government-run health care scheme. It actually articulates, quite well, what Republicans actually want.
-Health care that reduces costs across the board
It also hones in on this concept of “smart wording” in two ways: 1) By consistently hammering home the term “bipartisanship,” since voters on both sides of the aisle like to hear that. 2) It emphasizes, more than once, that the Democrats’ plan amounts to a government “takeover,” which could be argued based on semantics but, it’s a word that makes us all cringe.
President Obama once declared “words matter.” Republicans, no doubt, are taking him up on that.
-Tara Wall is a news anchor and political analyst at The Washington Times and editor of TheConservatives.com