Progressives Need a New Communications Strategy
Let me put this out there first: I am a liberal democrat from the Northeast, but I cannot believe the message bungling coming from progressives in congress. First example: minimum wage.
A fifteen dollar minimum wage is not a bad thing in the long run. It will help alleviate poverty and homelessness. And, once business owners get past their negative reactions, it will help them fill jobs people don’t want. Many of those jobs were filled by immigrants who are now afraid to enter the workforce because of the ICE terror regime of the last four years. Dishwashers, landscapers, fruit and vegetable pickers, hotel cleaners- talk to any business owner that needs those roles filled and they will tell you they cannot find workers.
A higher minimum wage would help with that. The reason we won’t get one is the way the debate has been framed. The proposed Bill actually worked its way to $15 over time, in stages. A dollar more every few years. Those promoting it never mentioned this. They went all out with the most extreme outcome.
The actual increase was closer to eleven dollars in the first year and a gradual rise after that. It would have been a lot easier to sell eleven dollars than fifteen. But it’s too late for that now.
They always build wiggle room into good legislation
Biden has done a great job so far with asking for the moon but letting legislators know privately that there was room to negotiate. The infrastructure bill asked to raise corporate taxes from 21% to 28%. Opponents screamed bloody murder at 28% but came back with a lower number, a number I suspect was always the actual number.
Biden came from years in the senate at a time when there was a lot more give and take and he knows the game. The communications mistake progressives simply cannot learn is that drawing an absolute ‘my way or the highway’ line is not negotiation.
Years ago I read a book on negotiation. It was a great book and what I learned helped me a lot over the years. I believe it was called Getting to Yes*, or something like that. The writer defined a negotiation where one party will not budge, as Soviet negotiation because that is how they negotiated, at least in the public eye.
Soviet-style negotiation has one goal: to stall the process permanently. The left has learned this tactic but they have not learned its underlying purpose, which is to eliminate any change. This is how they have contributed to the inaction in DC, perhaps unwittingly. It is childish to say the least.
In fairness to the progressives, the GOP also uses this stalling technique, even when faced with overwhelming public approval of many of the measures they block. I believe this is long term foolish for them, to divorce themselves so far from reality on the street. Progressives need to be wary of making the same mistake.
Another example is that proposed corporate tax hike in the infrastructure bill. One mistake the Biden team is making from a communications perspective is a failure to highlight another aspect of that tax hike, the recovering of tax revenue on corporate sales that take place offshore. In a global economy, these taxes are not insignificant.
The mistake is that this provision is one that it will be a lot harder for the Republicans to block. No one on either side, other than corporate lobbyists, thinks it is ok for US companies to avoid taxes on foreign sales. It is an obvious handout to special interests that Biden’s bill seeks to eliminate. And it needs to be framed better.
We are at an interesting place in political history
We have had a pure Soviet-style negotiator as President for the last four years. Everything was black and white. The so-called master negotiator was, in fact, a terrible dealmaker. Everything was done by royal fiat, executive orders that almost always failed the first legal test they were exposed to.
This, combined with eight years of GOP stonewalling in congress, set us back as a country long before the pandemic. The country was literally rusting away, not just its roads and bridges but it’s dynamic skilled labor base. Some of this falls on progressives who openly denigrated those without higher education. Skilled trades people were literally dying off without replacements.
There is a great opportunity now and Biden knows it. That’s why he is going big on the infrastructure bill. It could supercharge progress in this country via re-education, along with the actual repair and building of things. But going big has another purpose. It gives him a boatload of room for concessions when opponents demand them.
The game here is ageless. Force your opponent to put a number on the table and try to set it up so the number they come up with is what you actually want. Then when you accept it they can’t take it back.
This would have worked with the minimum wage. Ask for $15 knowing you are willing to take an immediate $11, something that many opponents signaled they would take. Then plan your next move.
It’s pretty basic stuff that my progressive friends need to learn instead of always crying for massive change right now.