Sunday, May 01, 2005

The New Democratic Brand: Party of the Future?

R.C.’s last piece brought to mind how extremely successful the GOP has been at creating a brand identity– small government, lower taxes, a strong military– while the Democrats have been inept at creating a coherent identity. Who even knows what the Democrats stand for anymore and can sum it up a sentence or two? Unsurprisingly, the idea of a Democratic brand is on many people’s minds these days, including one of the most popular Leftie bloggers, Kos. In his short piece on the topic, Kos suggests that the Democratic brand be defined as follows:

Democrats are the party for people who work for a living
This includes our core labor constituency, obviously, but also small businessmen and women who have been shamefully ignored by our party. It includes our men and women in uniform. It includes anyone who depends on their paycheck to make ends meet.


Simply put, I think this is a terrible idea. First, it is more of the same economic populism that simply doesn’t work anymore (anyone remember John Edwards?) and hasn’t for quite some time since it ignores cultural and non-economic issues, let alone foreign policy. Second, it’s sloppy; “people who work for a living” pits wage earners against those who make money on capital, but there are so many distinctions within the labor class that this doesn’t make sense (a CEO gets a paycheck as does someone who works at Wal-Mart). Finally, although there are legitimate criticisms of the policies that surround income derived from capital, most “regular” Americans are now invested in the stock market. As a result, a large portion of Americans are now in both camps.

I have a suggestion that I think better explains the identity the Democrats should strive for:

Democrats: The Party of the Future

First off, this immediately puts an optimistic spin on things, which is something the Democrats have had a hard time with; they're consistently viewed as obstructionists and pessimists. And what ideas and images does being “of the future” bring to mind?

– Assisting people in adapting to the increased uncertainties brought on by globalization
(e.g. policies such as wage insurance, job training, and basic universal health care)

– Investing in new technologies (including stem-cell research) and education to keep America competitive

– Promoting democracy abroad

– Combating Muslim extremism (and all religious extremism)

– Protecting the environment and addressing global warming

– Expanding civil rights at home (e.g. gay rights)

What is best about this “brand” is that it automatically sets up a contrast with Republicans as the “party of the past.” Although arguably vague, it allows the Democrats to address both domestic and foreign affairs, and it hints at the key question we all should be asking: What do we want the future to look like? Questions that naturally follow from this (which all work to the Democrats’ advantage) are:

– Do we really want the separation of church and state to be weakened?

– Don’t we want to expand civil rights in America instead of restricting them?

– Shouldn’t the environment be a bigger priority?

– What are the types of policies that are best suited to the new workplace where people
change jobs many times throughout their adult lives?

– Since we can’t keep invading countries how do we best combat Muslim extremism?

The word “future” also plays on the demographic reality of the Democratic base. America is becoming increasingly diverse and the Democrats should capitalize on the fact that they more closely mirror the ethnic composition of contemporary American society.

This concept is not perfect, but it’s a start at revitalizing a Party that is in desperate need of new ideas. As always, we at VOR would like to know what you think.

J.S.

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