Sunday, February 6, 2011

Communication is the problem to the answer

I was discussing in chat the other night with a friend about congress and the Wall Street and how we could get real financial reform, among other things. One of the problems that I see with our current political mess is that the people on the left have a major communication problem. Not only do most not know how to communicate their ideas to the general populace, but far too often their message is hollow and hypocritical. 

How can one preach about financial reform and how the uber rich do not pay enough tax or get obscene compensation or play fast and loose with the money they have when you yourself engage in or those activities or secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) wish you could do so yourself ?

Those that are struggling to make it are not going to listen to some ones ideas if these ideas come from people who drive over priced BMW or Mercedes Benz SUVs, live in expensive gated communities and pull in 6 figure salaries and justify to the nines their right to do so.  And when they do speak, they talk at people rather than with them and come of as preachy, arrogant and self righteous.  Instead of honest gut level expression.

How can anyone talk about having a fair and just economy and society when they are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary themselves to bring it about.  You have to be willing to walk the walk before you earn the right to talk the talk.

The big news now of course is Egypt and the Middle East. I wonder how many on the left would be willing to take the risks and put out the effort and make the sacrifices the Egyptians have these last 12 or so days for what they say they want ? How many would be able to communicate their desires in an honest, gut level way instead of some intellectual BS that sounds good on the surface but says essentially nothing. 

The left and the Democratic party was strong up through the 1960s because it consisted of working people, blue collar and white collar, that were able to express what they wanted and were willing to make the kind of commitments necessary to bring it about.  And tried to the best of their ability to live what they believed. Most had some humility and lived modestly. Not like Wall Street Wannabees or republicans in waiting.

1 comment:

Alan said...

My take: We (on the left) tend to get caught up in the theoretical, the policy statement, the position, and forget the real stories of real people that are the way to connect with other real people.

Litanies of factoids and policy statements tend to put people off or put them to sleep. There's no connection in even the best-drawn abstractions.

It's not the being well-off that puts people off, or even the apparent contradiction between the reality and the rhetoric. If anything, the other side is far, far worse in that respect. It's that they have grasped the importance of putting things in resonant, emotional terms, and we cling naively to the notion that the right policy statement, buttressed with unassailable facts, will win out.

Look at the campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry. Two fine men, each of which would have made a very good President, yet neither of them was able to connect with voters on the sort of personal level that inspires real commitment. Both tended to drone on in a professorial tone, as though delivering graduate lectures in public policy.

We have the better ideas. What we lack, as often as not, are the good communicators.

That - the communication - the story of his unlikely and uniquely American life's course, was a significant part of what President Obama rode to the White House.

Now, it didn't hurt that John McCain was visibly deteriorating, or that he chose a lunatic that twenty percent of the American public loves (while over half loathes her) as his running mate. But I think Hilary Clinton would have fared less well, though she'd likely also have won in 2008.

It's not that the political class exists in a stratum apart from most of us - they all do. It's that we're damnably less capable of selling the story that turns out the voters than the other guys. And the stakes get higher every time out.

This has to change. Tomorrow would be good, yesterday would be preferable.