Harry Weisbren’s guest post on Huffington Post is a great synthesis of a complicated idea. About media advocacy, he states that “making sure arguments are heard is just as important as making them.” I really connected with this idea, especially when he elaborated on the Center for American Progress’ mission to not just make persuasive arguments, but to make persuasive arguments that people actually hear. I connected with this because at work, I constantly experience the struggle between science and communicating with the general public. While a scientist who has dedicated years to a certain study may be devastated to see it boiled down into a few bullet points, or one quote in an article, or a 10-second soundbyte, Wall Street Journal readers and Good Morning America viewers do not want to know the same things that the readers of the New England Journal of Medicine want to, and frankly they would not understand them.
The need for effective communication is even more crucial now in a media environment that is entirely convoluted and at times overwhelming. Matt Bai’s book The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics perfectly illustrates that need.
The book looks at a cast of Democratic activists and politicians, including Markos Zuniga of Daily Kos, the leaders of MoveOn.org, and Bill Clinton, to name a few. A personal favorite was the image of billionaire socialite Lynda Resnick exclaiming “We are so tired of being disenfranchised!” in the middle of a party. While Bai’s impeccable storytelling made the book amusing, parts made me worry: as a registered Democrat, should I be concerned about the future of my party? Answer: YES!
As demonstrated in The Argument, while people can claim that they have a vision or a plan, if they don’t have an effective strategy to back it up, then it is essentially worthless. Bai’s argument seems to boil down to a belief that simply wanting to subvert Republicans is not an effective strategy for Democrats to rule the political realm. Without an actual vision and appropriate strategy, how are they to gain lasting support of future generations?
This book really made me stop and think about political and advocacy communications. I think that moving ahead, I will pay special attention to the messages that organizations and individuals are putting out there. And as power has shifted since Bai wrote this book, it will be interesting to see what the Democrats as “underdogs” do next. The future of the Democratic party is literally at stake, and the general population is completely out of the loop.