Dems need to talk down (on Maslow's pyramid)
If the Republicans are successfully scaring people and then promising to make them safe, you can’t counter that by appealing to their sense of fairness (“giveaways to the rich are wrong”) or patriotism (“Americans are above torture”), because belonging needs and moral needs are “higher” on the pyramid, and don’t make themselves felt until the lower needs are satisfied. If Republicans are successfully using fear, Democrats must either convince people that Democrats are the ones to make them safe, or they must get people to fear Republicans more. If people are afraid, nothing that doesn’t address that fear or doesn’t present a greater fear will get through. It’s like giving some who is dying of thirst a really good book. And I think Democrats have been offering thirsty Americans books. I love books. But not everyone wants a book. Sometimes people want a steak. I love steak, too.
And there are plenty of issues on this “lower level” (meaning the MOST IMPORTANT level) that Democrats can talk about: clean water (not for some “environmental” reason, but so when your kid drinks out of the tap, you know it’s not poison), keeping our ports safe (Republican’s can’t do it), giving people health care or protecting the health care they have, getting out of Iraq. I think Democrats need to be able to talk to all levels of the hierarchy, and know when to address which level. In forums like television and newspaper soundbites, “talk to the reptile” as Cranium says. You can talk to the other levels in position papers, policy forums, books, lectures, and blogs (though blogs do a good deal of “talking to the reptile” too).