Democrats Need a Targeted PR Campaign

Failure to Create One Means Losing Control of Congress in 2022

Credit: Peter Kuper, PoliticalCartoons.com

Political campaigns are essentially sales pitches. Politicians and political parties are selling a product aimed at convincing voters that their “product” is better than their opposition’s. For these to be effective, simple messages for targeted/susceptible audiences need to be developed and repetitiously publicized. Think Trump’s election fraud “product.” A lie, that the election was stolen, was targeted at an audience predisposed to be suspicious of “elitist” Democrats. The results were predictable. For those who watch Fox news, 82 percent believe the “big lie.” Further to the right, 97 percent of voters who watch Newsmax and OAN believe it.

The 2022 mid-term elections will be a referendum on democracy. If Republicans take control of the House, legislation will stop. The January 6th hearings will be shut down. Marjorie Taylor-Green and Paul Gosar will be returned to their committees. Liz Cheney will probably be stripped of her committee assignments, and President Biden will be impeached, for who knows what. If Mitch McConnell is returned to power in the Senate there will be no chance that voting rights will be addressed.

To stop this the Democrats don’t have to lie. The have to hire professional marketers who know how to construct simple targeted messages and find the money to carry out sustained media campaigns, both mainstream and social, promoting their messages. They should start with the recently signed bipartisan infrastructure law.

According to an ABC News poll, seven in 10 respondents said they know “just something” or “little to nothing” about what’s in the bill. On the other hand, more than 83 percent of Americans, including 79 percent of Republicans, favor increasing infrastructure funding for roads and bridges. Two out of three Americans believe their communities are vulnerable to clean water crises, with a majority of us wanting significant immediate investments in water infrastructure. And, two in three voters (67 percent) want their members of Congress to work collaboratively to solve problems. For example, all of these things just happened under President Biden and the Democrats.

The average American watches 35.6 hours per week of TV, not to mention the 145 minutes a day Americans spend on social media. According to the Media Insight Project, six in 10 of us do nothing more than read news headlines, whether in print, on television, or on social media. Indeed, respondents said the more complex an issue is, the less likely they will follow it. Making this all the more dangerous is the Annenberg Policy Center study which found that nearly 75 percent of Americans were unable to name all three branches of our government. This is the context the Democrats have to relate to if they have any hope of retaining their slim Congressional majorities in 2022.

On November 15, President Biden signed one of the largest infrastructure packages ($1.2 trillion) in U.S. history into law. It was a huge bipartisan accomplishment for the United States political system. The law will, among other things, improve the country’s roads and bridges, and replace all of the country’s lead water pipes. The messaging and the targeting of where and how to run a campaign about these accomplishments should obviously be left to the professionals. However, it’s clear that simple messaging around bipartisan cooperation, roads and bridges infrastructure, and clean water should be targeted at swing voters and the Democratic base needed to keep control of Congress in 2022.

It is not going to be enough for the news media to follow President Biden’s infrastructure tour educating people about what’s in the bill. That’s news coverage. It’s not a campaign that repeatedly, like a drum beat, over and over again drives home a message to a susceptible audience.

For better or worse, for those of us who care about a bipartisan approach to a government seriously dealing with societal problems, rather than one which flails about a stolen election, which was not stolen, this approach has to be undertaken. The infrastructure law is not the only issue that the Democrats should approach in this manner before 2022. They should also include Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) law and protecting voting rights both of which are “stuck” in the Senate.

Failure to do this kind of campaigning will lead to losing control of the Congress in 2022.

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