Hat tip to Badlands Blue for pointing out an article in The Washington Post today about Drew Westen, a psychologist and neuroscientist who is advising Democrats to replace politically poisonous phrases with descriptions that have “more appeal to voters.” Here’s a snippet from the story:
Democrats should not talk about “the environment,” “the unemployed” or “the uninsured.” Instead, they should replace those phrases with ones that have more appeal to voters, such as “the air we breathe and the water we drink,” “people who’ve lost their jobs” and “people who used to have insurance.”
That’s the advice of one of the party’s newest and more unusual gurus, Drew Westen. Westen is a psychologist and neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta who, unlike most political advisers, has never worked full time on Capitol Hill or for a political campaign.
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate brought Westen in to talk to them about the psychology of words, and he advised them to change the way they describe their positions to voters in order to do better in the midterm elections.
Both Democrats and Republican political candidates often use creative thinking when it comes to what words they use to refer to issues that are important to voters. People aren’t very fond of being reminded that politicians are shaping their words to appeal to the electorate and get votes, though, so I doubt that this is a story the the DNC wants distributed to the masses.
The language that we use as candidates in political campaigns doesn’t just beg attention in federal races, but also in smaller local elections. There are plenty of examples of local politicians and candidates who have doomed their chances at the polls by describing something in a way that turns off the voters.
Thinking about how you are going to describe the issues before opening your mouth is a good tip for anyone who plans on running for office, whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent or Martian.