Liberals Suck at language
I’ve been mulling this over for a while. I simply think the biggest political deficit of liberals is they often suck at the sound bite.
Lets take the “same-sex marriage” debate. Wait, see theres the problem already! A politician can be asked “Do you support same-sex marriage?” and if she replies with “Yes I support same-sex marriage” she’s missed the battle.
Take President Obama’s recent interview. It gets onto the second page before he says “Making it absolutely clear that what we’re talking about are civil marriages and civil laws.” Well thats fine and dandy, but people who are pissed or who are looking for soundbites aren’t going to get to the bottom of the first page, let alone the middle of the second page.
Not to be one to just whine without offering solutions, I believe we should have always been saying “same-sex civil marriage” or “gay civil marriage” put the civil piece right next marriage, all the time, in a way that can’t be separated in normal editing. I haven’t heard GLBT leaders and advocates advocating for gay religious marriage. Those discussions are going on within individual faith traditions, they’re not the direct subject of the political debate.
The example where I think liberals fail at language is on the college tuition debate. We’ve been saying “Rising cost of college tuition”. At least for the University of Washington the cost of educating students has gone down on an inflation adjusted basis. (Citation: KUOW interview with University of Washington’s President, starting at 6 minutes 30 seconds.) The soundbite language gets tricker here, but I’d suggest something along the lines of “Rising family borne costs of college”. This moves it from what the school is charging to what the parents and students are paying.
Here is the important piece of both of my suggested soundbites: Its tough for the media to butcher them. You can’t take the civil out of “gay civil marriage” and you can’t take the “family borne” out of “Rising family borne costs of college”.
This matters because this is how the soundbite is framed influences how people think. If we targeted our soundbites better we’d be much better off.