Monday, October 10


Got home from a seven-day film shoot last night. You know, one of those Atlanta-Savannah-Ft. Lauderdale-Orlando-Daytona Beach-Jacksonville-Tallahassee whirlwinds. We tracked Tropical Storm Tammy the entire week, getting drenched day after day as we set the shot and waited for the sun to come out -- which it did, eventually, every time except the very last.

So there was lots of time to talk to the seven-man, one-woman (besides me) crew, intervals where we discussed the Harriet Miers SCOTUS nomination, the Iraq War, the religious right, the economy, the python in Florida that was found dead after swallowing a six-foot gator, and the state of Florida Atlantic coast beaches. My film crew is nominated for seven regional Emmys, they're intelligent, well-informed, and range in age from 23 (a recent SMU grad) to 55 (a one-time producer of James Dobson Focus on the Family films and others for other prominent Christian leaders). The former Dobson producer left the evangelical movement several years ago when he became convinced that it was becoming more about politics and earthly power than following in the footsteps of Christ. He and his wife now attend the Episcopalian church and favor Democratic politics. The recent SMU grad is, at this point, apolitical, cynical about both parties. All the others are staunchly Republican, supporting George W. Bush's policies in most everything, one notable exception being that they prefer government to butt out of the private bedroom. One of them spoke for several as he noted, "We haven't had a terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11. That tells me we're winning the war on terror. Bush is on the right track." (The schoolteacher wife of one of the men is a fervent Democrat, and he considers her a lovable but misled eccentric, as he does me.)

When I see that 37% of Americans still support their beloved Dubya, I realize that these guys are among their numbers. Not all of the Chimpster's base are naive or selfish plutocrats. Some just plain won't ever believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Republicanism isn't synonymous with fiscal responsibility, strict constitutional interpretation of the law, good government, Christianity and American patriotism.

That's one heck of a brand, but the number of buyers are clearly diminishing. Can we Democrats establish one as good, as enduring, among a greater percentage of voters? Because make no mistake, that's our challenge. Sure, probably an equal number of voters will consistently vote Democrat, but can they articulate WHY to independents and moderate Republicans as well as the Rethug true believers? If you listen to right-wing talk radio, you'll guess the answer is "no" -- our conservative counterparts make mincemeat of most progressive callers because we try to talk facts, not image. Democrats must boil down our essential differentiators to a few memorable, repeatable, substantive phrases. In marketing we call it "positioning" or creating a "value proposition." We've never been very good at being pitchmen, but in this short-attention-span culture that's evolved over the past several decades, it's an absolute necessity that we learn the skill.


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