"Our Karl Rove is the blog you should be glad that Democratic strategists don't seem to listen to"
-- what they're saying on Republican blogs

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Common Good is Good, not Great


You have unofficially rolled out a new go-to-market term: "The Common Good." The Wall Street Journal did a nice write-up on it. In essence, it's symbolic rhetoric lifted from Roman Catholicism designed to put Democrats on higher moral ground when talking about economic opportunity and equity.

Congratulations on considering the ideas being written about here at OKR for years: Words matter. Symbols matter. Philosophy matters. And how you use all these bits in concert matters.

As far as snappy phrases go, it's good (especially when handicapping for Democratic ability in this area)... but it's certainly not great.

The good:

  • It provides moderate cover for talking about taxation (especially progressive).
  • It's a positive message (after all, it has the word 'good' in it).
  • It has strong ties to the strategically critical Catholic community.
  • It will speak to people who feel like they're common-folk.
The not-so-good:
  • It sounds generic (after all, it has the word 'common' in it), and Americans like to be told we're special.
  • It risks alienating those who do not feel like they're part of 'the common.'
  • It could sound like a veiled attack on individualism. Be careful; don't attack a fundamental construct of American culture -- roll with it.
  • It could sound like a codeword for socialist, big-government programs. Make sure not to exclusively tie this phrase to top-down programs.
A very small tweak could make this a much better catch-phrase for Democrats:

The Greater Good

The Greater Good is quite similar to the Common Good, but it has some additional features:
  • "Greater" fits the American ethos better than "common."
  • "Greater" can evoke a spiritual, religious element for those who see things this way.
  • "Greater" means the same as "common" for those who see things this way.
  • The root word of "greater" is 'great' -- and what political party wouldn't want the concept of 'great' to be a part of their philosophical core?
While it's not surprising that the word 'common' passed through all the poll-tested gates in Democratic circles, it does not strike the right tone for the less traditional democratic voters (e.g., disenfranchised whites who see Democrats advocating for every constituency but them). And, since there appears to be no serious negatives with swapping out common for greater, it's seriously worth considering this update.

Note: For all of those candidates trying to catch Hillary, you can use this tip to get ahead of her in the rhetoric race.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I't April 22
PA is over
What say you, OKR?