The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

END COMPARATIVES IN OUR TIME!

Jedmunds and Shakespeare's Sister are absolutely right: The proposed Democratic Party slogan sucks donkey. (no political pun intended) The Hill reports:
House Democratic leaders are holding a closed-door meeting with members of their caucus this afternoon to discuss a new slogan for the 2006 midterm elections: "Together, We Can Do Better" or "Together, America Can Do Better," according to Democratic sources.

Although aides say the slogan has yet to be finalized and is still up for debate, it has already been in frequent use by Democratic leaders on both sides of the Capitol for several weeks.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) used it as early as Sept. 29, during a press conference on Hurricane Katrina relief, according to a search of an online news database. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) first used it in a similar Katrina press event Sept. 15.
This is so bad I can't believe people received paychecks for working on it.

Maybe it works in the context of the apolitical things a government does, such as respond to a major natural disaster. But "together, we can do better" as a slogan is completely unacceptable for a political party with a complex platform and philosophy.

The main problem I have: "better". It's a comparative adjective, between "good" and the superlative "best". And that's the thing: It's a word of degree, and not a word of contrast.

So if we go all Lakoff on this, the implication of the frame is, "The GOP is good, the Democratic Party is better". Regardless of whether that's true, once you make the concession that the opposition party is "good", you've really given away the game, haven't you?

The same problem goes for a slogan John Kerry used during the 2004 campaign: "A Stronger America". It conceded that "with Bush, we get a strong America".

Perhaps this is a minor issue. But consider right-track, wrong-track polling. For a long time, a strong majority of Americans, when polled, say the country is headed in the "wrong track" (56% in the latest Zogby poll, for instance). My question is, how does "we can do better" really appeal to that sentiment? Yes, the Democrats can make a competence and clean-government argument against the Republicans, but there are fundamental ideological differences between the parties, and "we can do better" doesn't immediately suggest a different "track".

Example? Nixon in '68. His position on conducting the Vietnam War, relative to the Democrats, was, well, it was essentially "we can do better". It ended up being a different shade of the same crap for four years.

As to meshing contrast with a positive message, that's a project for the House Dems to consider tackling. They'd be well-advised to start from scratch.

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