Dems Don’t Need Better “Messaging” They Need More Candidates Like Gabe Vasquez and John Fetterman

“Messaging” smacks of inauthenticity, as it amounts to hiring consultants to study polls and then tell you what you should think and how you should talk about it. “Messaging” is transparently sugar-coating issues rather than speaking authentically from the heart. Today, we explore how authenticity communicates more effectively than carefully crafted messaging and why Dems are losing Hispanic and working class voters who are unmoved by national Democratic “messaging.” We need candidates who proudly proclaim allegiance to Democratic policies and priorities, not candidates who glibly mouth consultant-crafted “messages” while shying away from specific policies and priorities. Today we look at the campaigns of John Fetterman, Dem. Lt. Gov. from Pennsylvania running for the U.S. Senate, and Gabe Vasquez, Dem. candidate for U.S. Congressional District 2 in NM — two fiercely authentic candidates.

Why are Dems Losing Hispanic and Working Class Voters

As polls cited below indicate, the Democratic Party is having a serious problem attracting Hispanic and working class voters. It isn’t as if working class and Hispanic voters don’t agree with Democratic party policies and priorities, it’s that in communicating with those constituents, the Democratic Party consistently emphasizes issues that are not as central to these populations as economic issues. The Liberal Patriot in its “Working Class and Hispanic Voters Are Losing Interest in the Party of Abortion, Gun Control and the January 6th Hearings” offered up some poll results that illustrate this point.

In the just-released New York Times-Siena poll, Democrats have a 21-point lead in the generic Congressional ballot. Shockingly, white college Democratic support in this poll is actually higher than support among all nonwhite voters. This is remarkable and has much to do with anemic Hispanic support for Democrats, who favor Democrats over Republicans by a scant 3 points.

More broadly, the lack of Democratic support among working class (noncollege) voters is striking. Democrats lose among all working class voters by 11 points, but carry the college-educated by 23 points. This is less a class gap than a yawning chasm.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Democrats’ emphasis on social and democracy issues, while catnip to some socially liberal, educated voters, leaves many working class and Hispanic voters cold. Their concerns are more mundane and economically-driven. This is despite the fact that many of these voters are in favor of moderate abortion rights and gun control and disapprove of the January 6th events. But these issues are just not salient for them in the way they are for the Democrats’ educated and most fervent supporters.”

The Liberal Patriot in its “Working Class and Hispanic Voters Are Losing Interest in the Party of Abortion, Gun Control and the January 6th Hearings”

I was particularly struck by the comment that “it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that Democrats emphasis on social and democracy issues, while catnip to some socially liberal, educated voters, leaves many working class and Hispanic voters cold. Their concerns are more mundane and economically driven.” What struck me about this statement is it appears that many Democrats, myself included, too often fall in love with our own values and priorities while failing to honor the concerns of less privileged Americans who are potential allies and who Dems need to win elections.

The same polling broke out how different demographics identify with either major party. And here we get some interesting results, first in relation to educational attainment:

Based on a New York Times/Sienna College poll of 849 registered voters from July 5-7. All figures are rounded.

It’s hard to avoid noting that if you are well educated, you are more likely to support Democrats, and if you are less educated you tend to lean GOP. My takeaway here is that if you went to college you were exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking and you were forced to learn to construct arguments based on facts, logic, and evidence. These are critical tools if you are assessing complicated policy issues like how to address climate change or jiggle the economy in the right direction. And many college graduates have enjoyed more privilege from an early age — better schools, more opportunities, more support from family and community. Many of those who did not go to college were immediately thrown into the local economy, learning a different set of important skills, skills involving earning a living, caring for kids, and building a life. Those individuals may not have learned to analyze policy, but they do understand how policies hit them in the real world. They often face more difficult financial challenges. And so the issues they tend to care about relate to the economy, jobs, and the cost of living. While Democrats offer charts and data to delineate why their policies benefit Americans, charts that are compelling to those who have the time and attention to wade through, Republicans rely on misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric carefully crafted to resonate with working class people and how they experience their daily lives.

To counter that kind of rhetoric requires a different kind of advocacy, such as that conducted by Working America, a national organization we previewed in a recent blog. Working America uses personal letters and post cards and door-to-door canvassing conversations, not to build a case for a candidate or party but to help working class people better understand issues of importance to them. They never mention voting or candidates or party in their conversations, but their research shows that by helping working class people connect the dots on issues of importance to them, they will vote, and they will mostly vote Democratic. This kind of issue-focused, long-term education work is why we created our new 501c3, Rethink Our Democracy. That will be its job.

The good news is that a certain kind of Democratic candidate can reach working class voters, but not by carefully crafting their messaging and trying to look like the Hollywood image of a typical candidate, with coiffed hair, custom suits, and the right color tie. Meet John Fetterman, D., PA, who had a stroke in May, yet campaigns on.

Fetterman has been as frank about his political views as he was about his health. He’s a progressive. He’s for universal healthcare, Black Lives Matter, abortion rights, fossil fuel divestment, unions and a $15-minimum wage. Fetterman makes you think: Was that so hard? Democrats can appeal to working people by supporting labor and decarbonization, social justice and universal healthcare.

L.A.Times: Op-Ed: Democrats don’t need ‘messaging,’ just more candidates who act like John Fetterman

Fetterman needs no consultants to pick his outfits, hone his messaging or edit his tweets. Despite this unpolished approach, or perhaps because of it, he is leading his GOP opponent by 6%, despite his campaign stalling due to his stroke. Despite this health challenge and the limitations it has imposed on his campaign, a campaign that he described as” “a dog-turd-and-motor-oil smoothie,” he broke all records in fundraising in the second quarter. Fetterman managed to set a fundraising record for a Senate race in Pennsylvania: $11 million. So despite an unconventional campaign, he leads comfortably in the polls and in fundraising. And don’t look for that $11M to be used to buy consultant time.

On the other hand, Fetterman has no plans to change course. He doesn’t need someone to come along, consult on his choice of ties and show him a PowerPoint deck of messages. He talks off the cuff, he doesn’t do damage control, and — as he says — his views don’t change. “When you support fundamental rights, you don’t have to ‘evolve’ on issues,” he tweeted in September.

Eccentric, devil-may-care style doesn’t belong to the right. In fact, it’s something Democrats used to excel at. Think Jerry Brown, Shirley Chisholm, Ann Richards. Today there are also examples: Stacey Abrams, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Maxine Waters.

Like Fetterman, these Democrats show how much better the party can do with more passion, more authenticity, more jokes, more mistakes, more courage and much, much less messaging.

L.A.Times: Op-Ed: Democrats don’t need ‘messaging,’ just more candidates who act like John Fetterman

So, we have a choice: we can nominate authentic candidates who can easily communicate with working class people, or we can take years to educate working class people about how Dem. policies benefit them. But even to do that, Dems must first craft policies that actually do benefit the working class and then deliver on those policies. And if you can’t deliver because the GOP blocked the effort, this is your campaign message:

Sixty-five percent of Americans support taxing the rich and funding a robust infrastructure rebuild. In 2021 Dems introduced a tax plan that would have done exactly that, but every single GOP Senator refused to even allow it to come for a vote. I won’t do that. I will show up to advance what you want. Republicans won’t.

Which brings us to another authentic candidate: Gabe Vasquez.

Even if you have already watched the video below, please listen again at how personally and how authentically Gabe Vasquez spoke. Note how he very clearly lays out how Yvette Herrell votes against the interests of CD2 voters and how he would vote differently. That is the kind of candidate we need, the kind of candidate with whom you’d love to sit and have a beer. A human, not a message.

In closing, I’d like to remind you that our 2022 General Election Guide & Endorsements includes important information to help inform your involvement in NM state and national races. We’ve also made two new endorsements in legislative races in House Districts 2 and 19. Click here and please dig in. Time’s a wasting, with good candidates needing your help and bad opponents hoping you stay home.

In solidarity & hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Election, Political Reform & National Politics

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6 replies

  1. I like today’s column. Congrats on saying out loud what has been driving me crazy for the past few years on “messaging.”

    I am glad for folks working on issues like public banking and the green amendment, but I do not work on them or even write about them during the session. More vital are the bread-and-butter issues that address the everyday oppressing anxiety of too many of our fellows–things like paid sick leave, housing insecurity, access to meaningful healthcare (sorry, not NM HSA that holds promise for the far future–it sucks a lot of air out of the room but offers nothing for now). Again, fine that others are working on these issues but if the Dem Party locally is seen as that of Public Banking, HSA, and the GA, well, it is not talking to far too many potential Dem voters in NM.

    A Dem politician in NM can be much like Fetterman and support the progressive issues but be seen to be leading on the basket of essentials that can reduce anxiety of modern living: income, housing, health, reliable education for kids.

  2. YES! Slickness repels people! Nobody likes to be treated as just a vote to be got. “Messaging” – YUCK!

  3. Fetterman is entering in an open class war with the ruling class and with the politicians they have in their pockets.

    Class wars are old. Jesus run one against the most powerful empire of the time and against the priesthood or political class running his country from its capital, Jerusalem.
    It was, essentially, a grass roots movement until Constantine made Christianity the empire’ religion.
    We know what happened to it since.

    Fetterman and others like him may become much better politicians that many democrats already in power.
    The Question is if this is enough to provide us with the ability to institute long lasting political changes?

    I ask the question because OUR Ruling Class is, and has been from 1776, in constant war with the rest of us, especially with the likes of Fetterman, Bernie, AOC and with anybody demanding equality and equanimity in the republic.


    Let us acknowledge that we are all children of a Patriarchal-Dominator society which has been feeding Americans the myth of a Democratic Republic while, in actuality, the Republic has been used since 1776 by the ruling classes who benefit from the American Empire existing behind, or inside the Myth.

  4. Such a fine article! But funny thing is, even the LA Times article put forth a list that is messaging.

    “ He’s a progressive. He’s for universal healthcare, Black Lives Matter, abortion rights, fossil fuel divestment, unions and a $15-minimum wage.”

    Guess a candidate can’t get away from a platform. But that platform needs to be accompanied by the elusive characteristic, “Authenticity “

    The above isn’t much different than something that comes out of Tom Perez’s mouth every time he opens it. It’s just his comes off as a list all party candidates have to recite. Like “We can chew gum and walk at the same time.”

  5. So pleased to see you endorse Enrique Cardiel, the Independent candidate for House District 19! He is a very authentic candidate and communicator!

  6. Yes, authenticity is a necessary thing in a candidate. But remember that lots—LOTS—of working class and suburban Americans voted for Trump because they thought he was ‘authentic’, meaning he wasn’t politically correct. So we want authentic but with good values and in touch with reality.

    I agree that Democrats should run on a strong economic message with tax hikes for the rich, and infrastructure, and better health-care, etc. And downplay, without in any way running away from, abortion and guns.

    The one issue where I strongly disagree is defending democracy. This should be front and center, making sure it isn’t hollowed out by Republican machinations, and finding ways to reform and strengthen it.

    Here’s why, besides that it’s existentially important right now. Democrats lack a central, easily understood message, this is what we stand for. The conservative movement has honed its message relentlessly for decades and it is easily grasped and powerful: We stand for individual freedom. The enemy of your freedom is the government. The government (Except the military) is bad, taxes are bad, regulations are bad; the less government, the more freedom for you. The private sector is good, and the freer and less held down it is by government, the more freedom for you. Liberals want more government. They want to take away your freedom. Connect the dots.

    I like authenticity, but is Mitch McConnell authentic? Heck no. But he repeats the freedom message over and over. It works. Of course, it works in part because it is what business and billionaires like to hear and rakes in contributions, but it also resonates with lots of ordinary people.

    Liberals need a clear message that is also pro freedom but emphasizes democracy, not rights. The Democratic slogan should be “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Your freedom comes not from less government but from government that reflects the interests and will of the people. If elected we will not only use government to get things done that make your lives better, we will make sure it protects and expands your freedoms. This is what is now at stake and what the Republican Party is now clearly against. So we need to be 100% for freedom and connect that with democracy.

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