Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

The Big Hurt. Democrats Need More “Umph” in their Messaging.

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In the words of my beloved uncle Bo, the Republicans put a “hurt” on the Democrats in the mid-term elections, and many commentators have cited a whole boatload of reasons for the thrashing. The following thoughts and my own thoughts are offered as part of what went wrong.

Forty five percent of Americans did not go to the polls to vote.

President Obama did not campaign hard enough for Democrats.

Some Democrats were not clear on where they really stood on key issues and unwisely distanced themselves from the President and thus politically “cut off their noses to spite their faces.”

The Republicans kept aggressively blocking the President on key legislation and despite shutting down the government, rigging the game through voter suppression and really fomenting another “do nothing Congress,” they came out victorious.


The Republicans were playing to win while Democrats were playing not to lose. There is a big difference. The President and the Democrats had the strategic advantage, but appeared effete and weak because they did not capitalize on the foibles of the GOP while the Republicans gave them an unrequited political thrashing.

The rule is if you can’t do something at least say something. Open your mouth. At least say “ouch.“Raise enough sand about what your opponents are doing to at least eclipse if not sputter their political momentum. The old folks say, “It’s the squeaky door that gets the oil.” It ain’t what you say but how that you say it.” Say something if you can’t do something. Stop just chilling out! We need thrill time and not just chill time politics. Cool will not always beget results. Act like you’ve got something to lose and there you will gain something of value. Don’t just lay back and leave everything to the fates especially when we know that many people are not motivated to vote during the mid-term elections. The people need to be inspired and  galvanized to vote particularly when voting seemingly may not appear during these periods to yield as much political pay dirt.

Many people are saying that Democrats did do something and I do believe this but obviously it was not enough. To their credit the Republicans left not stone unturned, no avenue unexplored by going through fire and water and moving heaven and earth in conceptualizing and actualizing their political game plan to maintain and strengthen their political hand.

Many reasons have been offered for the Republican victory, but the truth is they basically out thought, out fought, out maneuvered and perhaps out spent the Democrats.

The problem, in part from my point of view, is that Democrats need more “umph” in their messaging and more thump in developing their own narrative by telling their own story of their political achievements. Nobody can tell your story better than you can tell your own story and you can’t leave that up to your opponents because they will always tell that story from their own strategic and practical advantage. They will always lessen the shine of your story to keep you at bay and will take your own silence about your accomplishments and use it against you. This is especially true in politics. If the old adage is true that “nothing in politics is more admirable than a short memory” then you must work even harder to get and keep that messaging out in the minds of the electorate. You must do more to vigorously evangelize your story and keep promulgating your story until your messages become the dominant and prevalent story and you obtain the desired results. 

George Lakoff again reminds that he who controls the narrative in politics also controls the results. Until the Democrats begin to uniformly, unilaterally and systemically develop a complete program of aggressive political messaging the Republicans will keep them on the ropes and it will only be more of the same. How can Democrats achieve such great results while the general electorate are still largely oblivious?

The billboard in Detroit Metropolitan Airport struck me one day en route to Morehouse College in Atlanta to give a Founder’s Day speech. “Having a business without advertising is like winking in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.” 

The same is true in politics and any other “business” where messaging in highly important.

By getting more “umph,” fire and consistency in their  messaging, the Democrats can still fight the good fight by at least appearing to give it all they’ve got. When people see that you are putting up a good fight and standing firmly and forthrightly for your beliefs and that you are taking nothing for granted you can inspire their support because they know you care enough to compassionately take a stand for them. Sometimes your honest efforts are enough to win people over.

By getting more “umph” in their messaging the Dems may be able to overcome the whipping of the midterm elections and rise again in the 2016 elections.



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