Thursday, March 23, 2017

RepubliCare – a Word that Works

     In the last two articles, we took a look at Frank Luntz’ messaging guide called Words that Work as a follow up to our article Don’t Call It TrumpCare.  That has been the playbook for Republican messaging for decades.  Luntz has repeatedly told us liberals to read his book and use it.  I took one for the team, read it, and am currently re-reading his book and taking detailed notes.  The last two pieces, Republicare – Working the Word pt1 & pt2 were written to set up a foundation for us liberals to understand how to do effective messaging, especially for those of us that chafe at the idea of using the same strategy that appears to have led the march to dumb down America.  Those articles were necessary because I know that liberals won’t just accept marching orders.   If you have questions about why this should work, then check them out in the links above.  In this piece, I’ll do a quick rundown of how the RepubliCare slogan applies the 10 rules.

Rule 1: “Simplicity. Use small words. Most people won’t reach for a dictionary.”

     RepubliCare is a combination of Republican and Care, which is short for health care.  Yes, we know that it’s not really a health care program, so we add the epithet “- the Republican Wealthcare Program.” It’s straight, simple, and to the point.

     Strategically, I want something that can be used to hammer ALL Republicans, and I want a phrase that will be memorable enough to pound them with in the next election.  Trump and Ryan are already trying to dodge responsibility for this fiasco.  Trump will almost definitely walk away unscathed (his career has been predicated on avoiding accountability), and it’s unlikely that this will hurt Ryan enough to cost him reelection.  So, the best strategy is to make this general enough to blast all Republicans with.   This should be a battle cry for Democrats in the next election.  Every Republican who did not immediately denounce this (which is all of them) should be labeled with it.  Those that eventually vote against it can be slammed for not actively opposing it earlier when they had more potential to influence this bill.

     By the way, this is also a good point to face the elephant in the Democratic room: Democrats are nowhere near as good as messaging as Republicans have been.   It’s a grand failure to think that we can label this with a dozen different variations and win the fight.  Don’t think for a moment that we can merely pin this on Trump and declare victory.  As we point out elsewhere, it wasn’t even his plan to begin with.  Also, he’s made a career out of dodging responsibility for everything.  If Democrats, progressives, and liberals want to win, then we need to unite on this and hammer it home.  Otherwise, we’ll be left with Trump, a Republican House of Representatives, and a Republican Senate. That’s a future that our nation cannot afford.

     Feel free to use scare quotes around “RepubliCare”.  Scare quotes are used to highlight a word, especially when it is used in an ironic, sarcastic, or satirical manner.  We are mocking the Republicans here, so use the scare quotes freely when referring to Republican “healthcare,” or when you want to highlight that “RepuliCare” is not really healthcare but a way to deny people health care.

Rule 2: “Brevity: Use short sentences. Never use a sentence when a phrase will do.”

     I think Luntz also says to never use a phrase when a single word will do as well, but I couldn’t find it before I began to write this.  This is important.   I’ve seen people suggest alternatives like “Trump-Don’t-Care”.   Say Trump-Don’t-Care and RepuliCare out loud.  “Trump-Don’t-Care” takes longer to say.  It sounds a little clunky.  (No offense intended to people who suggested it.  I appreciate the suggestions; we will need your help in future linguistic battles with these bigoted bastards, so don’t bail on us.)

Rule 3: “Credibility is as important as philosophy. If your words lack sincerity or contradict accepted facts, circumstances, or perceptions, they will lack impact.”

     This fiasco of a plan is showing the entire nation how morally bankrupt the Republican philosophy truly is.   When their proposal to improve the ACA actually denies people access and makes it multiple times more expensive, then the nation will not accept it.   That, however, is not enough.  That’s why I suggested the “Republi-” part.  Using RepubliCare, we can brand the Republicans with this for years to come if we are consistent.  They were happy to be the “Party of No” for 8 years.  Now let’s make them the “Party of No Healthcare” for the next 10 years.  This isn’t only about showing a lack of credibility on this issue or even the next election.   If we hammer this home, we can use this to brand them as the callous and bought-off bigots that they truly are for years to come.

Meme #15

Rule 4: “Consistency. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition. You may be hearing the message for the 1,000th time, but someone else is hearing it for the first time.”

     Republicans have tried to prescribe tax cuts and the free market for every problem for decades. They do it even in the face of market failures like healthcare. The only time the market doesn’t fail for them is in their wealthcare proposals.  There they have been consistent.   This issue is a clear winner for us, but the odds are still stacked against us: Republicans hold the White House, House of Representatives, and the Senate.  If we are going to beat them, we need a united front.

     Again, we aren’t just trying to beat them on this issue.  We are setting the stage to knock the snot out of them in the next election.  In order to win this battle, we need to stay disciplined and on message.  (By the way, notice how I’ve repeated that this is not just about this proposal, but the next election? Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.   If you started reading this series at Don’t Call It TrumpCare, you’ll also notice that this is a consistent message as well.)
If you’ve read some of our other posts, you may also know that we aren’t trying to convert die-hard Trumpanzees.  Our target audience, once we’ve mentally prepared to engage, are people in the middle who now regret voting for Trump, or maybe didn’t vote for him but thought that we should give him a chance.   Every time they hear our message, we are adding a grain of sand to the scale.   If they hear the exact same words, each repetition is like two grains of sand on the scale.   We won’t win them over on any particular occasion, but, with repetition and time, we will win.

Rule 5: “Novelty: Offer Something New.”

     RepubliCare is different and new, as far as slogans go.   I haven’t seen it in any major news piece yet.  The news on the AHCA that I see right now is like more horse race politics.   They are tossing around Trumpcare and Ryancare because they are trying to foresee who will take the political fallout from this fiasco*.  Who do you want to see take the political hit for this?  As we’ve said before, this will roll off Trump’s slimy back, and Ryan is politically safe.   Our best bet is to brand all Republicans with this train wreck.

     *As we finish the final edit on this piece, TrumpCare seems to be the reigning moniker.  That's too bad because when the damning repercussions begin, Trump will just whine that it wasn't his plan but he had to support his party.  He'll get away with that too.  It might not be too late at that point to shift to RepubliCare, but it will be an opportunity lost.  If you'd like to see liberals united in confronting not only Trump but also the entire Repbublican destruction machine, then please send these articles to your local Democratic representatives.

Rule 6: “Sound and Texture Matter.”

     One of the other suggestions was “Trump-Don’t-Care”.   The problem is that “Trump-Don’t-Care” doesn’t roll off the tongue like RepubliCare.   Say each one out loud again.  (Also remember that Trump will dodge responsibility for this monstrosity anyway!)  We've already noted that RepubliCare is much quicker to say.  The T in Trump and the D in Don’t make the tongue jump back and forth in the mouth too much, and that makes it easier to stumble over. We need this to be smooth so that others will pick it up.   If it rolls easily, it will stick easily.  We want this message to stick so that we can bring it up again in the 2018 elections.

     Another really good suggestion was wealthcare.  I liked it a lot, but it sounds a bit general.  I want this to stick to Republicans like bugs guts on a windshield on a hot summer day.  So, we decided to incorporate it as an epithet that gives us “RepubliCare – the Republican Wealthcare Program.”  It still works well, and we can use it like the guitar solo for our slogan.  It takes the initial message and adds a memorable punch to it.

     On a side note to the notion of the musicality of language, we should use this slogan as the chorus to our message.   So, we may point out that RepubliCare will lift the amount of tax-free compensation that a health insurance CEO can be given; that this will only result in CEO’s making millions more every year; and that means our health insurance premiums will rise even faster.  Then, just like a good song, we tie that message into the overall message by saying “that’s why RepubliCare is nothing but a Wealthcare program for the economic elites.”  (Also notice that we apply the rules of consistency and repetition here as well.)

You may notice that our memes have focused a lot on money going to CEO's instead of health care.
If you have an idea for a different meme, let us know in the comments.  If we can make it happen, we'll do it.

Rule 7: “Aspirational Speaking.”

     To be truly aspirational, we need an uplifting message, but RepubliCare is very much an intentionally destructive slogan.  However, it does point to the aspirations that we all hold, especially when we include “wealthcare” as part of the message.   That aspiration is for a better life, and, as James Carville’s said, “it’s still the economy, stupid.”  When people hear the message behind the slogan – that RepubliCare will send health insurance prices up astronomically for everyone except the top 10% of income earners – then “wealthcare” becomes a trigger word.   They will know that Republicans aren’t concerned about them or their families, but only the wealth of economic elites.

Rule 8: “Visualize.”

     RepubliCare begins to paint the picture we want.  We are already used to “-Care” from the way that the Republicans branded the ACA as Obamacare.  So, it brings the concepts of Republicans and health care to mind, then we fill that picture in by showing how destructive it is.   Adding the “wealthcare program” epithet really finishes the image by making us remember that it is the super rich who will benefit at the expense of everyone else.

Rule 9: “Ask a Question.”

     Not every slogan or message will have a question in it, as the RepubliCare doesn’t.   That’s OK.   We can supplement that by using questions in our conversations with others.  We begin to cover the topic of skillful dialogue and questions in another post.

Rule 10: “Provide Context and Explain Relevance.”

     I think the context here is pretty clear.   RepubliCare, the Republican wealthcare program, is another front in the class war that Republicans have waged against us for decades.  The relevance will come not so much through the slogan but through our extended messaging along these lines:  We can make it relevant by asking Republican supporters if it is acceptable to raise the health care rates for their parents to $14,000 a year?  (Based on an estimate from Vox prior to the CBO numbers being released.)  Note that we make it relevant by personalizing it, and also use rule 9 and ask a question.  Or we can ask why it is that a healthcare CEO should make more money in a single year than the average American will in his lifetime?   If someone tries to go on about free markets, then we can ask, how many people must suffer for his yearly bonus?  How many people must die before we are willing to admit that this is not a market efficiency, but a market failure?

     The subject of context brings up the big picture, and it is important to note that we won’t win this fight from a slogan alone.  As I said earlier, the slogan is like the chorus to our messaging song.   We make a verse by making a point, either by asserting a fact or skillfully asking a question.  Then we can drive it home with the chorus, either the full epithet or simply RepubliCare.

The big picture: harming millions of Americans in order to line the pockets of your campaign donors is un-American.

     So, I hope that this convinces folks to get on board with this slogan so that we can work as a united team and beat back this affront to our American Way of Life.  If you agree, or if you think this is a helpful and workable strategy to fight back against the Republican’s class warfare, then please consider sharing this post or one of the others in this series.   You can post it on social media (there are share buttons below) and, if you really like it, send a copy to your Senators and Congressional Representatives.  Below are links to help you find your local legislators.

Thank you for reading, and Don’t Let the Bastards Win!

Articles in this series:

Providing context - people want peace of mind.
How can you have that when you are always one bad day away from financial catastrophe?

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