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A Failure to Communicate: The GOP's Public Relations Debacle

No, the problem is more complicated and made more so by what we all know -- the overwhelming onslaught of propaganda and dishonesty from the academy, Hollywood and the media. We can complain about that all we want, but unless we start building our institutions, no genuine change will occur.

The good news in the current debacle is that it provides this opportunity for radical change, perhaps even serious rebranding. The left uses the terms “liberal” and “progressive” when there is nothing liberal or progressive about them. We are stuck with stodgy old “conservative” or "libertarian," a term attractive to me in many ways, but possibly already played out and too ideologically restrictive and utopian. The Tea Party too may have outworn its usefulness, having been relentlessly attacked, even though almost always unfairly. Maybe it’s time to think of something else, something that reaches out and brings in the America we seem to have alienated.

A quote by the nineteenth century British socialist and designer William Morris has long intrigued me: “Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes out not to be what they meant, other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.”

Morris may have been on to something. What you call something is nowhere near as important as what it is. Or, in another sense, what you call something is often a deliberate form of misdirection.

The greats of public relations have always known that. The art of public relations has been to get people to accept something, often when they don’t want it. Conservatives and Republicans don't even have to do that. They are at an advantage in this regard. They have something the people most likely want, even though they don’t always know it. Our job is to make them know it.

But that may take some rebranding. Radical rebranding. Also a wholesale changing of the guard when it comes to our representatives at all levels -- party, media, and elected officials. We need people with the skills and ability to reach out, to talk the language of America. And we need to listen to America as well. I suspect those people who voted against us and are now drifting even more toward Obama are trying to tell us something. Most of all: we're not communicating.

Related: The Art of Persuasion