The Congressional Progressive Caucus and other leftward-leaning House members could learn a lot about messaging strategy from Linda Dunikoski, the Senior District Attorney, who prosecuted the three White men who publicly lynched Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man out for a jog. She secured felony murder guilty verdicts through her effective messaging to the jury, dispassionately focusing on the facts of the case.

Dunikoski understood the conservative racial terrain she had to navigate to bring a nearly all-White jury (11 Whites and 1 Black) around to the details of the event which were captured on video by one of the murderers. She recognized the jurors were from one of Georgia’s more conservative counties and strategically omitted race from her case, and focused her message of right and wrong, appealing to their morality.

Unlike her Democratic counterparts, Dunikoski understood that her audience’s interests had to be addressed directly and connected to their everyday lives. She did not demand that her adjudicators agree with her personal views of the situation, but hewed to the conservative Christian reality in which they lived.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have approached their base supporters with a viewpoint that does not incorporate the struggles of their daily lives. That approach is not working well as reflected in the November 2021 elections in New Jersey and Virginia where Republicans surged to victory in areas where Democrats had won overwhelmingly a year ago.

In their self-aggrandizement, they have decided that their personal and political opinions represent the perspectives of their constituents, although they have spent limited energy to determine what they are. Democrats are taking an aerial view of their supporters’ interests and needs rather than interacting with them regularly.

Republicans have taken full advantage of this political position by listening to their backers and/or energizing and educating them to embrace issues they promote. They have targeted issues, books, and individuals deemed to be too radical—critical race theory, Beloved by the Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison—to vilify as Democrats stand idly by apparently not knowing how to respond.

Instead of replying in kind, Democrats seem to twiddle their thumbs and continuing their war among themselves rather than developing a series of messages that are attractive to their base voters: ethnic minorities, suburbanites (where Republicans are making inroads), young people, women, and the elderly. Below are some messaging suggestions.

Abortion: Republicans have been campaigning to overturn Roe v. Wade which gave women the Constitutional right to a legal abortion since the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued its ruling in 1973. It has withstood many challenges during the past four decades, but SCOTUS heard its sternest challenge to date this week. This is an opportunity for Democrats to frame a powerful message to support Roe v. Wade as women (and men) across the socioeconomic spectrum support it by over two-thirds.

Voting Rights: After an initial flurry of voting rights activity shortly after Biden’s election in 2020, there has been intermittent Democratic messaging and efforts to address the 400+ pieces of proposed voter suppression legislation that is moving and/or has moved through state legislatures in over 45 states.

These attempts at voter nullification are having and have had a negative impact on ethnic minority voters who provided Biden and several Democratic House and Senate members their margins of victory in key states, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which gave Democrats control of all three branches of the elected federal government in 2020. These voters will be essential to Democrats winning the 2022 midterms and need to be motivated.

Funding K-12 Public Education: Funding for public education has steadily declined in recent years, even as more dollars have been appropriated for this venue. What is even more disconcerting is that in many cases, monies that President Biden included in the American Rescue Act, his first piece of federal legislation, were not distributed to school districts throughout the nation especially those serving disproportionate numbers of low-income ethnic minority students.

Police Reform: After a big hullabaloo about reforming police practices and tactics in the aftermath of the police killings of numerous males and females of color in questionable circumstances, the murder of George Floyd highlighted the urgency of this problem when police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, in full public view, while Mr. Floyd lay in a prone position on his stomach, restrained by two other officers.

This incident generated national protests in minority and majority communities across the nation, and then presidential candidate Joe Biden went to Houston, Texas to meet with the Floyd family. Since taking office, President Biden has met with members of the family in the White House. But Democratic-Republican negotiations for police reform failed after months of trying and have not been resurrected or even discussed of late.

Inflation: No topic has generated more controversy than inflation in recent months. Consumers of all racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds are complaining about rising costs on food, electronics, homes, gas, and all other goods and services. Republicans are blaming President Biden for these price increases and tying them to his Build Back Better bill which they claim will cause inflation to skyrocket even more.

Biden responded by tapping the gas reserves to lower costs at the pump, but there are no messages being sent to the broader public that are reducing their economic anxiety. Democrats need to develop a series of effective and hopeful communications to calm buyers’ fears.

The aforementioned concerns are ripe for coherent and aggressive messaging. The question is: Why aren’t the Democrats seizing the opportunity to pummel their political adversaries on these matters? This is especially puzzling since Republicans are leading Democrats in House and Senate projections for the 2022 midterms. Democrats are failing to generate messages that will galvanize their voters to come to the polls in large numbers in 2022 if they are to retain power.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell and BC.

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