Friday, May 11, 2018

Jennifer Neahring got smart

Jennifer Neahring's campaign is now leading with its strongest arguments.  

She has a big media push going on now. She is focusing on issues that appeal to Democratic voters' self interest, not to their sense of compassion. 
Neahring, in Medford

That is smart.

Democrats and Republicans have different priorities, and each tribe responds to different message themes. In the current configuration of political parties, 
Democrats tend to be concerned about unfairness and harm, especially to the weak. Republicans are more concerned about cheating, encroachments, or unfair advantage taken by the weak. Democrats--especially activists--think about the needs of the disadvantaged, for food, housing, education, and medical care. Republicans--especially activists--think about food stamp fraud, bad tenants, and the cost of giving education and medical care to people who want a free ride. They hate the taxes that pay for it.

Remember: Reagan connected with a lot of people when he spoke harshly of "welfare queens" in their Cadillacs. Newt Gingrich called Obama the "food stamp president." Trump spoke of Mexico sending their immigrants, drugs and rapists, cheating the system by going through porous borders. All are threats from below. Those are Republican themes. 

Meanwhile, Democrats want easier access to education and health care, they support DACA, many support sanctuary cities, they are pro-immigrant, pro entitlements. That is compassion for the disadvantaged. Those are Democratic themes.

Candidates and activists in each party tend to be stronger, purer forms of each archetype. As voters disperse across the political spectrum between the archetypal Democratic and Republican types, they become more open to seeing the validity of the other message. Yes, someone is a Democrat, but they notice that some people game the system by working under the table. Yes, someone is a Republican, but they recognize that their mother in a nursing home is being paid by Medicaid, so although they generally hate "welfare" they have to admit that her getting Medicaid is really handy.

The problem for candidates: how to appeal to the middle without losing your activist base supporters.  Neahring has figured it out.

Neahring: protect middle class benefits.
Jennifer Neahring is doing a late campaign media push. She is focusing on issues and language that appeal to a broad audience, but doing it without offending her activist supporters.

The pure, archetype Democrat, cares a lot about Walden's joining in the attack on the ACA--i.e. Obamacare--and the cruelty of taking health care away from the working poor. It fits the Democratic archetype appeal, the concern for harm to the weak. Lots of Democratic criticism of Walden has been about that cruelty against the poor of his District.

Not every Democrat is so compassionate, and that message doesn't work for everyone.

There is a different message, and Neahring is making it. She is talking about threats to everyone's health care, not just the threat to the poor. 

I have received three large-format mailers from Neahring in the past week. They include photos of Neahring looking concerned and compassionate (an implicit assurance to archetype Democrats that she is motivated by compassion) but the text speaks to the threat to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and rural hospitals. These are middle class benefits and institutions.

Her focus is the Greg Walden/Paul Ryan threat to the benefits of the middle class, via cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Her criticism of Walden's threat to the ACA focuses on the damage it would do to rural hospitals--including the large Asante system in Medford--not the cruelty of taking health care away from a full time worker in a low paying job.

She isn't giving away our money to the poor.  She is protecting our benefits and institutions from threats from above. Big difference.

Neahring is speaking to self interest, not compassion--but doing so in a way that doesn't offend compassion felt by Democrats. Neahring found that sweet spot.

There could be a Republican archetypal way to speak to self interest, and that would be to say that we need greater fines and penalties on families guilty of food stamp or Medicaid fraud. That fits the Republican message theme--cheating from below--but that language would hit the wrong notes for a Democrat. She would be accused of "moving to the right." Neahring avoids that. She is a Democrat, and Democratic voter self interest is preserving the safety net put in place by Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. 

Her language and image retains Democratic compassion but it avoids falling into the political trap of looking like she is giving away voters' tax money to others. The threats are from above. Walden and Ryan are out to get you, but she is on your side.  

Good message.

1 comment:

Rick Millward said...

Dr. Nearhing's campaign can truly be seen to be riding the "wave". I am disappointed that other candidates have not withdrawn in order to support the candidate that actually has a chance to flip the seat, whomever that may be. The Democratic primary is threatened to be a non-event, with a winner that will be faced with uniting a fractured plurality before even taking on GW.