Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dem messaging blows (as usual)

Political psychologist Drew Westen, who is as frustrated as I am with the Obama campaign's message operation (and has written a whole book ripping into feeble Democratic political messaging), lists ten things the campaign needs to work on to get it back on track. His post is pretty much dead-on. Sample passage:

They were similarly aware of the argument--it was published right here a little over a week ago--that allowing Palin to define herself would make it difficult to change public opinion if she delivered a strong, emotionally compelling acceptance speech, because once people have formed a positive impression, they will fend off data inconsistent with it. Precisely how and why this happens in the brain is not a secret. Once again they chose to ignore the relevant science.

This is how Republicans govern. They ignore science and rely on faith and intuition. Unfortunately, it's how Democrats campaign. No one should be involved in messaging or strategy in a Democratic campaign who isn't intimately familiar with the 60 years of research in social psychology on persuasion--on what works and what doesn't. This isn't optional reading. No one aware of that research would have made the strategic error the Obama campaign just made on the Palin nomination.

I see the Obama team doing the same thing Democrats always do: poll test some issue-based messages, get positive responses, and then the campaign runs with it. For eons now, the Democrats have relied on some model of ultra-rational political behavior completely divorced from how swing voters actually think and behave. It might work in statewide elections, but you give up a ton in national elections, when low-info voters turn out. Meanwhile, the Republicans aim their appeal straight at the brain's reptillian core and win, in spite having dumbass candidates and terrible policies.

Westen also talks about the campaign taking some tips from the Daily Show. I'd go further: Obama should fire his message operation and just hire the staff of the Daily Show. It's kind of embarrassing how much more effective the Daily Show has been than the Obama campaign in its anti-GOP messaging.

Why haven't we seen an animatronic Marlon Brando yet from Obama?