Can Democrats rebuild? Yes – if they listen to Toby Keith
To win in 2012, Democrats must rebrand themselves. Country music lyrics could help.
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For all of the major initiatives the Obama administration passed, none has positive connotations in the popular media. Indeed, almost every program – from "Government Motors" to "Obamacare" – has been pointedly branded by critics.Skip to next paragraph
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Perhaps the most effectively packaged statement of Mr. Obama's accomplishments comes not from the White House or the Democratic National Committee but a humorous (and PG-13) website: wtfhasobamadonesofar.com. Certainly the Democrats can do better, and not just by evoking images of steaming teakettles and mad hatters, but through reconnecting with voters by finding positive ways to describe their own accomplishments.
No. 2: Diversify
Sure, the Obama administration ranks as the most diverse in history in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation. But perceptions of an intellectual, Ivy League elitism continue to hamper the Democrats and their ability to craft a mainstream message.
While enlisting the best and the brightest into public service is a good thing, relying too much on a relatively insulated liberal elite makes it difficult to stay in touch with ordinary Americans. As the leader of the Democrats, Obama needs to find political consultants like James Carville circa 1992, whose spirited "down-home-ism" and ability to craft a unifying message helped President Clinton connect with the whole country, not just parts of it.
No. 3: Throw a different party
Many of the candidates who won on Obama's coattails in 2008 ran away from him in 2010, hardly a sign of party unity. Yet the rise of the tea party and the resulting Republican fragmentation provide an opportunity the Democrats have not had in decades: to be the more cohesive party.
Why can't the Democrats reinvent themselves as the "American party"? They should sign a code of conduct that puts good governance first and articulates party values such as fairness, security, and opportunity that average citizens – the "high-techs, blue-collar boys, and rednecks" that Toby Keith sings of – can relate to.
Instead of parrying tea party criticism, they should go on offense, showing why the GOP is like the New York Yankees of politics while the Democrats better represent smaller-market teams.
A hip slogan might be "Party responsibly: Vote Democrat."
Whatever it is, the message should be clear, plain-spoken, and confident. If not (cue the country music), 2012 may produce more tears in Democratic beers.