Thursday, March 03, 2005

Hey Rove! It's About Security, Stupid!

from grannyhelen

There have been some pretty good hypotheses floating around these days, trying to understand why the American public has such a visceral hatred of Bush's social security privatization/private accounts/whatever-the-heck-ya-call-it plan.

Some folks think the GOP talking points have crumbled around them. Others think the Democrats have just done a really good job on message management. Now, although I'm proud of the Democrats for standing together to oppose Bush's social security scheme and I'd like to this is a sign of firm, new leadership at the helm...but at this early stage of the game I just don't think that's entirely it.

So, why is the social security debate something that even the formidable Mr. Rove can't manage?

One answer: the American people.

The GOP made a fatal flaw in the social security debate: they believed their own spin. From President Bush down, the Republican Party believes that their free-market, pro-privatization ideals won the day. They believe the American people gave them a mandate based on these ideals and in early January when they were putting together the President's budget they probably felt it would be welcomed by Americans, indeed that crowds of pre-screened citizens would be greeting them with rose pedals in the streets.

What they didn't understand was the emotion that drove the American people to vote the President a second term: the need for security.

It's strange that the GOP missed this one. After all, they ran on the war. Bush's campaign rhetoric had a laser-like focus on pronouncing that we were in the middle of a war against the evil doers, that he was a war-time President, that Saddam posed a threat to this country and how great it was that he was no longer in power.

All of this rhetoric made the American people place an inordinately large value on their personal security and the security of their friends, family and loved ones. President Bush at the end of the day won the argument on his vision of winning the "war on terror", and Americans felt their personal security was important enough to ride through another term with him.

So, what happened? President Bush switched the script. Once in office it was no longer about the war, and it was no longer about terrorism and Iraq. I mean sure, that's all still going on but it's pretty much on autopilot right now, I think, in the minds of most Americans. All they want is for the war to be over, the soldiers to come home and the President of the United States to tell everyone he's got the terrorists on the run.

They want the President to make good on his unspoken election promise to them to keep them secure.

But what does he do? He proposes getting rid of farm subsidies. He wants to make cuts in Medicaid.

And he wants to mess around with social security.

I just listened to a Bush shill today from some place called "For Our Grandchildren" (link above - a group that suspiciously no one's ever heard of before) on what is normally a great local radio show. He basically said that most Americans don't understand the stock market (and said that he didn't either, until a few weeks ago), and they just need to be educated more to be turned around to support Bush's proposals.

What a load!

Here's what Americans know about the stock market: it goes up. It goes down. If you invest in the stock market and you retire when the market is up, great. If you retire when it's down, sucks to be you. And everyone right now has a story of their cousin/aunt/coworker/friend/distant relative who just got burned on their 401K when the tech bubble burst. Most have their own stories of watching their portfolios tank not too long ago.

Maybe Americans have short memories about some things, but when it comes to our own money we're like Zip discs.

And unlike the super-rich operatives who designed Bush's social security scheme, most people don't have the expectation of being able to have that much control over when they're going to retire. Many of us will more often than not just have to accept retirement when it comes, and how much money we'll have to retire on is therefore pretty much a crap-shoot.

That's why Americans instinctively love social security and don't want it "privatized" or subjected to the whims of the stock market in any way, shape or form. It is our safeguard, and our security just in case our 401K's don't pan out as well as we thought they would.

George W. Bush, a man of inherited wealth, can never understand that. He simply will never be able to empathize with the word "security" in social security. It may as well be a foreign language to him.

So, Bush violated his campaign promise to the folks who voted for him. They thought he was going to provide them with more security, and instead he's taking it away.

What should Democrats do? Beat the security drum - not on the war, but on personal security. Personal security means being able to get medical care if you're between jobs and you don't have health insurance. It means being able to let your kids drink tap-water without worrying about pollutants, and eat fish without worrying about mercury poisoning.

Above all, personal security means that after you work day in and day out for over forty years that you won't be destitute, and that you'll have at least enough money to buy your food and prescription matter what happens to the stock market.

If we can understand the emotion of personal security, and communicate it through our proposals and platforms, I believe Democrats have a great shot at winning big in 2006.

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