Reframing “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages”

By Stephen Cataldo, 24 July, 2017

The Democrats's new slogan is here, "A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages."

Let’s break this down: What is the frame? Who is the implied speaker? What does it assume about the audience?

Voters, the audience, will have someone making a deal for you. You need them, your wages and job need an upgrade. In particular, maybe hang your head in shame, your current skills suck, and you need a hand getting better skills. The deal-making frame is of course Trump’s frame (with old connections to the New Deal) — once again completely ignoring the basic advice from George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant, keeping our minds on Trump the whole time. The Democrats' initial frame implies they think your skills suck and want you to trust unnamed experts to take care of you.*

It is a slogan of people at the top providing something to people who need help.

The Democrats need to be “of, by, and for the people;” not policy experts making deals for you. To borrow from Sanders: "not experts, us." They need to offer — oops, not "they" and not "offer," rather we demand — a square or fair deal: “better” sounds charitable, but people simply want a chance to work hard, do their share, and be paid their share. "Fair" is clear, people working hard should together demand a square deal and fair pay — “better” is not clear, you can't envision it.

The slogan needs to focus on the “of” and “by” the people parts: to invite us all to create this economy together as we benefit from it. No one trusts the “for” part alone. And I would recommend differentiating from Trump on the magic-thinking: the economy requires hard work, and so does politics. My job requires attention to detail, and so does policy development, or else policy falls apart.

Liberal values are well expressed by “hope and change.” Underlying conservative values imagine everyone having a place with dignity in the scheme of things — both work and reward. In a liberal world, that scheme is less hierarchical, but however steep the pyramid we all need — and largely no longer have confidence in — a sense of place. I think this year there should be two key themes:

  1. hard work must lead to dignity, success and reward — for coal miners and politicians alike.
  2. and we need to do this together — no deal makers or elites.

After watching the ObamaCare repeal fiasco, a theme of “no shortcuts,” of politicians who work hard just like voters are expected to.

Maybe something like:
“No shortcuts: Back to work together,” a phrase about both voters’ employment and politicians getting their hands dirty. Both of these phrases aim to connect voters’ desire for hard work that leads to rewards, with politicians needing to also work hard.
“Of, by, and for us all: health, education, and rewarding jobs that matter.” Reward people like teachers whose jobs matter instead of rewarding mostly Wall Street, or giving people rewarding jobs with dignity, like factory workers used to feel as they made automobiles and other goods with pride. Discuss the financialization of our economy, where Wall Street is sucking out a huge part of the profits without providing contributions to match.

In any case, the "why" needs to come first. A marketing team attentive to voters' frustration and the frames that would help the Democrats would never have suggested "better skills" or the rest of their slogan.

* Update. They fixed the most obvious part about insulting people's skills, and now it's A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future. "Better"
and "future" are both fill-in words, they don't evoke images of any sort.