The Democrats Have A Brand Problem

Let’s face it, you’re not a Democrat. At least, it’s not something you’d admit in polite company. The brand is damaged almost beyond repair -- and that’s a serious problem in a country that teeters on the edge of a cliff, with nationalism, racism, and totalitarianism just over the edge.

How did we get here, and what steps can the DNC take to reframe its brand and mission?

First, the problems -- and then some solutions.

The DNC and Bernie. Michael Moore’s new movie "Fahrenheit 11/9" takes us back to the 2016 Democratic Convention. On the floor, state after state that Bernie had won voted for Hillary. It was the work of the so-called “superdelegates,” and it was flat-out wrong. Now the DNC has taken away that power from superdelegates going forward, but the anger and resentment from the Bernie wing of the party remain. That damage will take years to repair, and it hasn’t even started yet.



The DNC and social media. The Republican’s are angry -- and organized. If you post anything that questions the President, they descend on you like hornets -- calling you a libtard, a snowflake, a liberal, or worse. Maybe those response come from trolls -- or Russian operatives. But I can tell you, they seem like real people to me.

And the Trump GOP has both houses of Congress, the presidency, and may soon control the Supreme Court. Republicans are still spitting mad at the scourge of liberals who they think are ruining our country.

What’s in the Democrats' arsenal of name-calling? Very little. Do we hold the GOP responsible? What is our pithy name for Republicans? What about Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham? I get it, we don’t want to get down in the mud and engage in name-calling -- but the short, viral, powerful nature of social media amplification requires we learn to speak in a new, punchy, memorable code -- or face the consequence.

The DNC amplifying old voices. Every day I get an email from the DNC, and every day it comes with old email headlines. It’s literally junk mail, re-purposed as email. The sky is falling. The world is ending. Send us money.

But day after day, people tell me they’re tuning out, they say they have problems with “both sides.” Of course, this is a false equivalency. But it’s emblematic of just how poorly the DNC has defined itself, failing to develop a clear brand with a clear vision to hold on to. As much as we can ignore the simplistic bumper-sticker pronouncements of MAGA, the DNC responds with no clear mission or message to align with. 

So what could the NEW DNC look like?

Try this:

Democrats: The Party of Progress

Welcome to the new DNC. We’re a party that believes in the promise of the future. We believe in progress -- progress that brings health care to all Americans. Progress that believes that Americans deserve an affordable education, a living wage, freedom from discrimination based on gender, race, religion, nationality, age or sexual identity.

Progress that embraces the remarkable ability of technology and science to make lives better, while at the same time being aware of how the pace of change risks leaving some Americans behind.

Progress means keeping the government out of our bedrooms, and our bodies. Women deserve to make decisions about their health and reproductive rights without fear that a Federal law will limit those rights. 

Progress invites new voices to join the conversation. Progress imagines a world where people can find meaningful work and a path to prosperity and happiness. Progress embraces civil rights and challenges racism and discrimination. 

Progress makes the world more peaceful and helps us build partnerships with our neighbors based on mutual well-being and shared prosperity, not threats of military action and civilian annihilation. 

Progress means things are actually better for all members of a society than they were before. Improvement only for some isn't progress, it widens the gap between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless. Income inequality is the result of unbalanced progress and ultimately leads to conflict.

If the DNC accepts the collective vision that progress moves us -- together -- toward a better, more-just and equitable society, then there’s room in the big tent for lots of voices. Liberals, progressives,  Independents, Democratic Socialists: all the flavors of progressive thinking fit within the rubric of progress.

The brand matters. It matters because people vote for things they believe in. People don’t get up off the couch, take time off from work, wait in lines at the voting booth to vote AGAINST things. It’s just too hard to ask people to vote if they can’t be inspired to believe in a better future.

The GOP’s argument is that life is a zero-sum game. In order for you to become more prosperous more secure, have better health care, and more economic opportunities, someone has to have less. The GOP’s argument is that there are winners and losers -- and to win, someone must lose.

The Democrats won’t win a national election without a national vision. The GOP wants us to go back. It’s up to the DNC to plot a path and present a vision to go forward.

Without that brand and that vision, the party will continue to foster divisive and self-defeating battles. Brands today need to be more than slogans and mass-market emails. They need to have the courage of their convictions, and a clear voice and vision that people can rally around.

So call yourself whatever you like: a liberal, a progressive, an independent, a socialist. Those are just labels. But believe in one thing  we all can embrace. It’s about moving forward together. It’s about progress. That’s a brand we can believe in.

4 comments about "The Democrats Have A Brand Problem".
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  1. Tony Reynolds from Select Film Fund Management, September 24, 2018 at 12:08 p.m.

    This is spot on in so many ways.

  2. Donald Frazier from OneVideo Technology, September 24, 2018 at 1:32 p.m.

    That would be just great!  One starting point:  the DNC could come clean with an apology for rolling out the red carpet for hackers.  Goes well beyond maintaining an insecure system, or even failure to train staffers to not click on the executable files in mystery emails. The FBI gets wind of all this, comes to visit -- and the DNC sends them away! 

    (Beyond it does no Democrat or, for that matter, this historical record any good to imply that superdelegates were decisive in the nomination.  You're right, this kind or rumor does cheapen the brand --  especially when it comes without context.)

    The concept of progress, as a key message, works well if the idea is to activate more of the same blue votes we've already seen.  I don't see how it convinces Latinos in the border states to vote in the first place, especially if they want work and security from ICE hassles.  Or jobless young people in the rust belt who want a better life but will not rally around the banner of civic betterment to get it.  Or WWC women, who do not connect the idea of 'progress' with basic gender respect. 

    In general, the idea of 'progress' summons a vision of social activism.  Not just voting. I think many red Americans associate that spirit of activism with the mass marches, the collective good, disrespect (as they see it) for the flag, a fraying social fabric, a loss of family ties that are so important to them, affirmative action, and so on.

    Might work better to articulate progressive goals in terms of a restoral of a harmony between the activists in the streets and workers in fields and factories that was the Franklin Roosevelt's vision of America. My white-trash, Delta-poor family saw stability in that.  An update might do the same, if it's supported by educational and economic policies that can make it real.

    (And fix that typo in the fifth graf.)

  3. Rob Walters from Self, September 24, 2018 at 1:42 p.m.

    The same could be said for both sides really - I don't think either of them are viewed as a country favorite. Admit to being either one in public and there's sure to be people ready to bash you for it.

    The DNC's problem is that they've spent the last 2yrs trying to knock down Trump instead of building up their own base. At this point does anyone really think that the DNC has anyone they can put up to beat Trump in the next election? I hope the don't just sit back and assume backlash votes will just get whoever they nominate elected - it certainly didn't work the last time.

    I don't expect the GOP to completely back Trump's reelection either - don't be suprised if the GOP tries to find someone to challenege Trump.

  4. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, November 15, 2018 at 4:01 p.m.

    The bigger problem for the left is not so much that they themselves are committed to knocking down Trump (a Weeble, really. He wobbles but he won't fall down). It is more that the left gets behind the most ridiculous things, and people TO ASSIST them in knocking Trump down (unfortunately, only resulting in more weebling on Trump's part, and THE LEFT ULTIMATELY FALLING DOWN ON ITS OWN ASS as a result).

    An example. The ridiculous support for the porn star, and her lawyer. Good God, did every left-leaning news organization bend over backwards to provide maximum air time to that woman, and her cretinous lawyer Avenatti. Remember? Oh... they were going to knock Trump down good, hence, the preposterous amount of air time given to that freaky sideshow.

    Set aside for the moment that Trump was accused of having a one-time sexual liaison with the porn star in 2006, TEN YEARS BEFORE HE BECAME PRESIDENT! Am I really supposed to be outraged by that? A billionaire businessman that is also a multimedia celebrity having a sexual encounter with a porn star while a private citizen? I really only know one thing in all of this... porn stars are KNOWN to go after billionaire celebrity businessmen. It's good for their images, and bottom lines.

    Anyway, months later, a judge dismisses the porn star's, and her lawyer's silly, dumb lawsuit against Trump (and the left gets painted as silly, and dumb as well for having thrown in with that), and then the lawyer is arrested for domestic abuse after a lengthy investigation into a beating on his ex-wife. THESE are the types of "throw-ins" that continue to tarnish the Democrats "brand." 

    And to make matters worse, the real outrage that was President Bill Clinton, while occupying the MOST POWERFUL OFFICE ON PLANET EARTH to seduce a fresh out of college, 21 year old intern in his employ, three decades his junior, into the most quintessential example of WORKPLACE EXUAL HARASSMENT ever! Well, every time a Democrat attempts to explain that away with "that was a consensual relationship"... THE DEMOCRAT'S BRAND IS FURTHER TARNISHED! Lies, deceit, and hateful hypocrisy will tarnish a brand all day, every day, and twice on Sunday. And that's all the left has going right now...

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