Friday, January 07, 2005

Pushing our frame works

At Wednesday's DFA meetup I introduced attendees to my proposed framing of the Social Security debate:

Republicans want the debate to be about how to fix Social Security.

We want the debate to be about whether it needs fixing.

At worse, Social Security has a cough, not a cancer.

You don't heal a cough with chemotherapy.

Now, this framing starts off with the point that Republicans want the crisis to be an assumption, not something they have to prove. But Atrios and AMERICAblog make the observation that the Republicans apparently weren't prepared for Democrats to argue that there isn't a crisis. This from The Boston Globe:

Like numerous Republicans, Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire said in an interview that he has been surprised by the Democratic strategy of charging that Bush is manufacturing a crisis in Social Security as a ploy to garner support for private accounts. "I didn't expect a wing of the Democratic Party to respond by saying, 'This really isn't a problem.' It is very hard to sustain that argument," Sununu said.

Sununu is trying to scare Democrats off of making this argument. He is trying to re-establish the frame that Social Security is in crisis by suggesting that arguing otherwise is just not possible. He is doing so because he realizes, in his heart, that this is a strategy that might work.

Atrios makes the additional point that Bush may have made a mistake by leading with a public pronouncement that Social Security was in crisis. This gave the Democrats the perfect opening to question that basic assumption (and they are taking advantage of that opening). Atrios suggests that Bush should have lead with "the joys of investment" and leave the crisis talk as an assumption in the dialog. Bush didn't take advantage of the frame the conservatives have been manufacturing for the last 30 years. He tried to add to it instead, and by doing so, he opened the door to questioning the frame itself.

We need to keep telling the Democrats in congress that we have their back if they choose to go forward with the "what crisis?" strategy. They will get hammered for it. They will get called "delusional", "in denial", "blind". We have to keep reminding them that the way they see it is the way that it really is and that no amount of smoke from the Republicans and the media will change that.

This battle is so winnable.


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