Milford Dispatches #2: ISSUE FRAMING

Several members attending the GBVD meeting in December agreed that Democrats do a poor job of issue framing.  Conservative (dare I say rabid?) Talk Radio does not seem to have this difficulty, at least for a significant minority of potential voters.  The problem Dems have seems to stem from an overwhelming desire to present a lengthy explanation in a severely analytical style.  This is my personal style of communicating.  I can tell you it causes big problems at home when talking to my wife.  Bernie Sanders’ recent day long Senate speech easily out-did anything I ever attempted, however! 

Below is an attempt to describe an issue and frame a condensed, emotionally charged version of that issue.  If a majority of you agree that this resonates with you, maybe this will jump start our ability to frame our key concerns for the country in a way independents will relate to.  I’ll start out with the complaints the media keeps harping on: 

1.   Government waste and dithering

2.   Joblessness – and low pay

3.   Schools underperforming / property tax too high

4.   Greed and corruption in the private sector

5.   Representatives pay no attention to us

6.   Unions are just unreasonable; want benefits without performance

7.   The Governor cuts services while piling on debt

8.   We can’t afford compulsory health insurance – I’m not sick

9.   Government caters to the rich and influential – throw the bums out

10. War, Climate, China, Nafta, Morals, (anxiety, fear & disgust) 

There is also this common complaint, “I don’t have time to figure out what’s happening in government.  Why doesn’t someone explain it factually without mud slinging?” 

This last item, prompted by negative campaign advertising, may hold a clue for how we proceed.  To do this, brevity is essential but trust must be established first. Trust could be established if voters felt the communicators were decent, involved well meaning neighbors of there’s. We have to provide an alternative to “I don’t like how things are going.  I’m voting the bums out!” 

Problem is, modern life is not simple.  Black and White clarity only comes with imminent catastrophe. False simplistic pronouncements are a hallmark of demagogues. 

I feel that history’s most famous demagogue succeeded because of a populace full of fear and a feeling of abuse by outsiders.  It seems we may be in one of those times now. 

Let’s take each on of the ten items above –  I’ll state what I feel is the lengthy answer then try to condense it:                                                                                                                                                                                       

1.   Government waste and dithering 

Waste comes from 3 sources:  ineptness/rushing, deal making/compromise, unthinking expansion.  Dithering is often a lack of proactive leadership. Human nature defaults to putting on band-aids to avoid hard work. 

We should not let waste be defined as something that truly helps those we do not know.

 2.   Joblessness – and low pay 

Unemployment is serious, leads to anxiety and bad decisions.  Many seem to feel that it’s the government’s fault and the President (or Governor) can fix it if he tried.  Serious unemployment is a side effect of capitalism. That’s not to say other forms of government avoid it.  The wrenching changes emanating from the rapid globalization juggernaut magnifies it.  It will take government awhile, at minimum, to catch up. It will take international cooperation to address it effectively.  Human nature makes trusting ‘The Other’ very hard.  Government regulation is the only balance available to capitalism, but many distrust our awkward, inefficient and understaffed regulatory systems. The United States has just gone through a long period of deregulation.  It was not functioning extremely well when we had it.  Economists are poor at including human nature in their analysis and suggested fixes. We let greed go unnoticed and unchecked.  Like most group human endeavors, errors take years to see a problem really corrected.  Memory is short.

Regulation is difficult and awkward.  Do you now see how essential it is? 

Good regulation requires intelligent constant tweaking.  Citizens must apply themselves.  Lawyers need a leash called ‘Simplify!’  

3.   Schools underperforming / property tax too high 

Like maintenance on the family car, neglect can cause more expense in the long run. Our system makes it easier to fund an elaborate facility than to agree on how to improve education.  Architects and construction crews hiring is easier than ferreting out weak points in pupil performance improvement. That requires daily monitoring.  Teachers fear the whimsy of the state and exaggerate the ‘slippery slope’ danger.  Childless residents abhor being taxed for those they do not know.  Voters dislike all legislators except the one they happen to know. 

The price of freedom is eternal diligence, not just vigilance.  Change is constant.  Controlling it to our advantage requires understanding.  Education breeds understanding. 

4.   Greed and corruption in the private sector 

The legislative framework governing corporations is ancient.  Corporations are designed to maximize the equity of the stockholders.  Government grants charters to corporations and can rescind them.  You cannot expect this framework to encourage egalitarian behavior. That’s why our forefathers required a corporate charter, granted by the State.  Everyone should know you balance capitalism with regulation.  In modern times here in the US, we increasingly find our economic mobility requires federal – not just state – regulation. Globalization presents us with the problem of control across nation’s borders.  

There’s a couple of the Ten Commandments that cover this.  Christians would do well to heed them.  Would not hurt to encourage other religions to practice them as well.  

Globalization will not stop.  It decreases military action as a first resort. It requires a new way of governing. 

5.   Representatives pay no attention to us 

A common complaint; as if our representatives should call on us individually. That wasn’t easy even in colonial times. The system is designed to have the representative use his best judgment, then stand or fall on the result. They usually don’t mind a little discussion and guidance.  But what representatives often hear from voters is a totally discordant cacophony. What’s required is for citizens to make an attempt to first agree among themselves, then contact their representative.   Don’t just call your representative.  Get to know him.  They say, “Walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes.” because it helps you understand. When you offer to help a representative you often get attention and lasting appreciation.  It’s a representative democracy, stupidSo,

‘Work with your representative – not just ‘on’ him.’ 

6.   Unions are just unreasonable; want benefits without performance. 

Unions are like a temporary regulatory body applying balance directly to their dynamic situation. When the equal balance gets out of whack, bad things happen. 

The answer is not to throw away all the balance wheels, it is – rebalance them. 

7.   The Governor cuts services while piling on debt 

When Governor Patrick, facing an economic tsunami in 2008, tried to reach out to every county to explain the problem and converse with citizens on the best course of action, he was mostly ignored – except by those who stayed in touch with their representatives regularly.  Some towns turned out a hundred to confer. Some only eight (like mine). Later, many voters tried to blame him for the actions he had to take. As he often says, “I’m just the Governor, not a King!” Citizens need to understand –

We must influence the legislature. That’s our system’.  (England came to understand that first). 

8.   We can’t afford compulsory health insurance – I’m not sick 

Health care has improved dramatically since the 1960’s and so has the cost. The only way to make it affordable is through mass participation and regulatory leverage.

Why aren’t we out protesting driver’s licenses and insurance (or the Federal Income Tax?)Because they make sense and protect us. 

9.   Government caters to the rich and influential.  

Yeah, why not? They speak with one voice mostly and contribute big money.

Throw the bums out – That leaves the staffers and lobbyists – concentrates the negatives

10. War, Climate, China, NAFTA, Morals, (anxiety, fear & disgust) 

Maybe if we apply ourselves to cleaning up close by, we will know how to fan out and start cleaning up bigger messes.

About JayG

I'm the elected Treasurer of GBVD and committed to the idea that if Democrats from all over the valley join together we can become a critical mass to elect and monitor Democratic Party candidates. I have retired from corporate life several years ago. This is my time to Give Back to this great nation in its time of need. I have chosen to do this as a Democratic activist. I am a member of the Milford Town Committee, a delegate to the state convention and am a representative to the town from Precinct 6 and serve the selectmen on one of their advisory commitees. My career background is in the life sciences.
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