Democratic Municipal Officials understand that while writing good legislation is important, it’s equally important to fully explain the policy and its benefits to your constituents. This page is meant to help you as a legislator do just that. Learn more about our political messaging tips below:
The Rules of Persuasion
Begin in agreement and stay in agreement. Begin an argument from a point of agreement and provide your audience with a path from their present opinions to your proposed solutions.
Use progressive values. Don’t allow conservatives to monopolize popular values. Use words like freedom, opportunity, security, and justice before diving into a policy proposal or explanation.
Show listeners how they benefit. Talk about how your policies will affect the middle class, where many persuadable voters lie. Be specific about how a policy can help an individual or their family.
The Mistakes of Persuasion
Don’t repeat the opponents’ frame. Avoid giving into misleading labels like “pro-life”, “tax relief”, and “anti-police”.
Don’t use language that triggers a negative emotional response. For instance, discuss how we should protect equal opportunity for all instead of giving benefits.
Avoid the passive voice. Don’t say that 100 peaceful protestors were arrested, say that the mayor instructed police to illegally arrest them.
Don’t use wonky or insider language. Most persuadable voters have no clue what the filibuster is or what a neo-liberal believes. Many don’t even know about types of tax credits and tax deductions.
Don’t overuse facts and statistics. Tell the heartbreaking story of a grandmother who has to sacrifice insulin to treat her diabetes because she needs to take care of her grandchildren. Don’t just say that a million Americans have to ration insulin because of the cost.
Frame right-wing bigotry as a way to pit us against each other and use direct language to do so.
Talk about the deeply unfair distribution of income and wealth in America. Don’t be afraid to explicitly mention how the policies that got us here started, and how the right continues to push for economic policies that benefit the rich and powerful.
Talk about the wealthy. Discuss the top 1%. Americans, by wide margins, believe that they should be taxed at a higher rate and that the economic system currently works to benefit them. Don’t dance around saying what Americans already believe.
Talk about a fair market instead of giving into conservative framing about free markets.
Don’t say that we need to give rights to consumers, say that we should not deny rights to them.
Talk about local schools and educators. Almost no one has an unfavorable opinion about their child’s school or teachers, but very few Americans believe that public schools nationally are of high quality.
Don’t fall into conservative messaging traps. Progressives support public school children and teachers, and so do Americans.
Mention how the right supports vouchers for private schools and explain how that would take funding from public schools.
Talk about progressive values like safety, security, and health. Provide examples for how environmentalism can strengthen these values in the audience’s community
Mention how there is overwhelming agreement among climate scientists on the issue of human-caused climate change.
Americans don’t like government. But they like just about everything that government does.
Talk about Social Security, infrastructure, scientific research, and all of the popular undertakings of government.
Don’t let local or even state governments get swept up in the unpopularity of Washington, DC. Talk about specific actions of local governments in recent years that have positively affected your audience.
Personalize the debate. Talk about how every one of the audience’s family will likely be harmed by conservative health care proposals, and don’t mention Medicaid.
Talk about how hard working Americans and seniors should not be denied the security provided by medical coverage.
Express your support for Roe v. Wade.
Talk about how the government has no place in the very personal and private decision that a woman makes regarding abortion.
Don’t give into the conservative framing of “pro-life”.
Tell voters how your policies will protect them. Progressive criminal justice policies divert nonviolent and young offenders from future crimes.
Stick to what’s popular when it comes to guns, such as background checks and red flag laws. Use values like safety and security.
Agree with voters. The tax system is unfair. Share your views and ideas for making the rich pay their fair share.
Use the term tax fairness, not tax relief.
Voting and Elections
Freedom. Frame the right to vote as a fundamental freedom and conservative proposals to limit ease of voting as attacks on our freedom.
Don’t mention voter fraud, you won’t win the argument by educating voters on how rare it actually is. Talk about free, fair, and accessible voting laws.
Wages and Benefits
Don’t overuse statistics.
Frame raising the minimum wage as beneficial for the whole economy, as most swing voters are not working at the minimum wage. Don’t portray it as “helping the poor”.
Use terms and values like fairness and fair share, and directly mention the rich and powerful.
How to Rebut Logical Fallacies
Stay on message even if someone tries to change the subject in order to distract the audience away from the real issue.
Stick to your actual proposal when your opponent misrepresents your position and attempts to paint you as extreme/radical.
If accused, let the audience know that your proposal isn’t part of a master proposal to cause drastic change. For example, background checks aren’t going to lead to gun confiscation nor are they intended to do so.
Don’t allow conservatives to conflate correlation with causation.