When it comes to audiences, the American public is a tough crowd. It’s hard to get their attention, and when you do, they have a short attention span, a shorter memory and little patience for subtlety or innuendo. So when you get their attention, make your point quickly, make it simple and make it stick.
Right now, the Monday protesters at the General Assembly have the attention of the media and the public. It’s time to simplify and clarify the message in terms that North Carolinians of all stripes can understand and remember. The message should stay away from judgmental language and focus on specific policies that directly impact the day-to-day lives of a majority of citizens.
Instead of discrimination and racism, talk about health care and class size. There are plenty of people who don’t believe the legislators are either discriminatory or racist but still believe they are wrong to raise class size and deny health care. If we want to win in 2014, we need them on our side.
The message is simple: The policies of the Republican-controled legislature are bad for North Carolina families and children. The supporting arguments are:
- They’re hurting public education by raising class size on our youngest children at the same time they are eliminating teacher assistants from elementary schools.
- They are denying at-risk 4 year-olds access to our nationally recognized Pre-K program even though the program reduces dropout rates and improves chances of graduating.
- They denied health care to 500,000 of our most vulnerable citizens even though the program would not have cost the state a dime.
- They denied benefits to unemployed people suffering from the worst recession in 80 years.
- They are cutting $50 million from our public university system.
- They did all this while giving massive tax cuts to the richest people in the state.
Voters are self-interested. Stay focused on the tangible impact that GOP policies have on their lives or the lives of their friends and loved ones. Don’t argue about the motivations or reasons Republicans passed these policies. A year and a half from now, when their kids or grandkids are in large classes with overwhelmed teachers, they’ll remember who did it. They won’t care whether they were discriminatory or not.