Reading “Will the Florida Democratic Party Return To Relevance,” while getting settled-in at the Florida Democratic Party Leadership Blue Conference, it leapt out at me that the root of what ails us as a party are issues of trust and credibility. And, these problems stem from our inability to assert a consistent value set, which is why groups like the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida are gaining traction. It’s past time to have this conversation about values.
Any good marketing professional will tell you that when we’re doing branding we’re really defining values. If they’re really good at their job, they’ll be honest and let you know that you can’t fix a tarnished brand with new logos and websites. Instead, we need to get serious about what it means to be a Democrat in state, local and national contexts. We have to address issues of authenticity, and credibility because these are central to buillding trust back into our party.
When Kartik points out that we’re plagued by inauthentic rhetoric, and that we refuse to put forth a vision in a positive message, he’s showing how we’re failing on the level of credibility. If our best argument for electing our candidates is that they’re not as bad as the other guys, we’re setting the bar pretty low for trusting our people. And, when we ignore our progressive coalitions that already exist and need our help, we undermine the structures that should support the values our brand is supposed to stand for.
Lacking credibility is a big deal for any organization, let alone a political party that purports to be the one and only savior of Western Civilization. I mean, we DO purport to do that, right? That’s the only rational response to the GOP Clown Car — to be terrified for the sake of humanity seems perfectly reasonable.
We lack credibility because we’ve spent too long “moderating” our values, and every time that happens we shoot ourselves in the foot because progressive values are our brand and they provide us with authenticity which in turn is why people should trust us.
When we’re talking about “credibility,” how much can the FDP and county DECs actually do when progressive values are being undermined elsewhere in our brand universe?
One thing, that’s just the simplest thing in the world, is to distance yourself from bad ideas that don’t comport with our values.
We saw this on Friday when the Trans-Pacific Partnership was so roundly rejected in the House by Democrats. This was the result of years of grassroots work and it shows that when you stick together and act on principle like Democrats, there’s victory — and voters take notice.
Our values, and the public’s perception of how we maintain our value set, determine if we’re going to be trusted. That’s our brand. It’s our credibility. There’s nothing more important because we’re in the business of selling values.
If we’re being told our rhetoric is inauthentic, we need to listen and change that. Yes, that it done on the local level. It’s done at the dinner table. It’s done at the state house, and it’s done in the White House. We are all brand ambassadors for the party. As soon as a Very Serious Person tells you you’re not, you have my permission to kindly tell them that Brook said that he’s wrong and you matter.
If the Very Serious Person tries to tell you that the reason you’re not connecting with people is because you’re not talking to them like they’re in line at Publix, (as Steve Schale does here) just remind them that we’re in the business of selling values, not deli meat. People in Publix generally don’t want to talk about about women’s reproductive rights, healthcare expansion or climate change. But we have to engage these conversations or else we’re going to find ourselves living in a world we don’t recognize.
The thing that’s critical to understand about branding is that you have a brand regardless of if you set out to craft one or not. Anything people think of you is your brand. If they only think bad thoughts of you, that’s your brand, until you change it.
And by the way, “yes we can” address this at the state and local level, even if there’s issues that impact us from national. Much of the damage is done at the state and local level, so you better believe that the responsibility lies there in fixing it.
But more importantly, grassroots push-back is demanded when our national brothers and sisters go astray. Even when it’s our President, as was demonstrated in yesterday’s Trans-Pacific Partnership defeat in the House. This is how it works in a Democracy.
The only authentic way to affect change in a Democracy is through the grassroots. We’re not doing transactions here. This isn’t Publix. There’s a big difference, and when our best and brightest can no longer see the difference, that, in itself is the problem.