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Democrats Are talking about "Re-Branding"

Posted by: David Kiley on March 16, 2005

Two articles I have read in the last 24 hours—one in The New Yorker about Joe Biden and Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed piece in the New York Times today—specifically talk about the Democrats “re-branding” themselves. I have an idea: Dems could stake out being the party for “The Truth” between now and 2008.

Truth in advertising is an ideal that the best brands embrace, and around which what little ad regulations we have are built. It is all the rage right now to be tough talking on terrorists, and it is not advisable, so say the pundits, to go against the GOP on issues of Democratizing the Middle East. With elections in Iraq, and rumblings of Democracy in Egypt and Lebanon, it’s not looking too good right now to just say President Bush was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Where Biden, Clinton, Kerry and whoever decides to take on Bill Frist or Newt Gingrich in 2008 could stake out some fresh ground is to talk about picking up where Bush’s policies leave off in 2008, but advancing them on the gasoline of basic truth telling. There is little doubt that the War on Iraq, last year’s Medicare Rx Bill and the current GOP case for Social Security private accounts have been based on lies right out of the box. That’s not partisan talk. We know there were no WMDS in Iraq. We know the Medicare bill will cost around 30-40% more than The Administration told its own GOP legislators who were on the fence. And we know that private accounts won’t add a dime’s worth of solidity to the looming Social Security shortfall a few decades away. Also, if the Democratic strategists can’t paint GOP House Majority leader Tom Delay as a pol who is allergic to truth-telling than they ought to concede the mid-term elections.

Democrats have an annoying habit of criticizing the GOP policies without articulating much of their own that sounds original. This is just an idea, but I think that spreading Democratic ideals and principles around the world when those ideals are wrapped tightly in truth-telling (like fessing up to any Middle Easterner who will listen that the West has selfishly mucked around their business for a century in order to get oil as cheaply as possible and we want to get to a place where we aren’t doing that any more) they have a better chance of taking hold. People, or peoples, who speak the truth have a better chance of being taken at their word. Don’t they? Another idea—put together a coherent energy policy that makes it easier and more attractive for Americans to buy more fuel effecient vehicles, and tie that to avoiding costly wars in the Middle East in future, and voters will listen. That would seem to be a genuine Democratic idea that could take off if marketed and articulated right.

Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden seem to be talking about re-branding the party by making it more like the GOP. Sounding tougher on terror and abortion and talking more about prayer-life seems a bit contrived to me. And besides, that ground is staked out already. I’d like to point out to them that the GOP got stronger when they moved away from the middle and went further to the right.

Here’s a parting thought to the other Democrats trying to plan their brand strategy for the party and themselves. The truth will set ye free.



News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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