June 18, 2015
Winning an election is about gainfully defining the choice being presented. It is about successfully creating such a stark contrast between you and your opponents that when voters walk into a booth, picking which lever to pull is the easiest choice of the day.
But on both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans have struggled to find rhetoric that defines this contrast equally across all issues.
Within its social-issue platform, the Democratic Party has been remarkably successful. It’s positioned itself as a party of acceptance, and, perhaps more effectively, painted Republicans as exclusionary and narrow in their views (to put it politely). Whether or not Democrats have delivered on this narrative, they have presented the easy, black-and-white choice for the voters they target.
But they lack similarly defining language around economic policies. Both parties fall back on the same “opportunity for all” rhetoric. And at the end of the day, it can be hard for an average voter—(one without a crystal ball or advanced degree in economics)—to successfully determine which version of the American-apple-pie vision will most benefit them.
Democrats have failed to create the same “easy” choice for economic issues that they have for social issues.
But they might be on to something.
When Hillary Clinton used the phrase “inclusive economy” in her June 13th speech, she wasn’t unveiling some unique turn of phrase. It’s a term that’s used both domestically and internationally. It’s not even a unique phrase for Democrats - President Obama used it in April during a joint press conference with Italy’s Prime Minister Renzi in support of TTIP.
However, Clinton’s use stands out.
Inclusive versus exclusionary has been a successful contrast for Democrats in defining the difference in social issues. Now she’s using the established weight of that contrast to draw a line in the sand between economic platforms. By linking the economic and social together and the mirrored use of “inclusive,” Clinton not only reminds voters of Democrats’ highly defined social platform, but elevates the level of distinction between the two parties’ economic vision to match it.
She’s begun to set up the easy choice for voters.
There may be a risk to the strategy. The phrase is, dare I say, more “liberal” sounding than economic catch phrases of the past. And with Republicans likely to reuse past barbs that Democrats seek to “redistribute the wealth,” it could be abandoned for more standard rhetoric as campaigns pick up.
But there is also reward to carry on with it. If the national Democratic Party, whether it is represented by Clinton or another nominee, finds a way to clearly contrast both its economic and social platforms – the crux of the domestic agenda –from the Republican Party, it may gain a valuable head start in locking up undecided voters. Particularly as the Republican Party remains distracted in trying to define differences within its own field of candidates. It could be this early contrast that leads to a decisive victory next November.