A party by any other name
If we’ve learned anything from #Election2016, it’s the power of a brand. It’s still a bit mind-boggling to think that a swaggering, loud-mouthed, walking brand with no prior experience in elected office could, I mean did, win the presidency of the USA.
Let’s face it, the old brands we call political parties are getting shabby. I mean, when I say “Republican Party” registered Republicans are nearly as likely to get angry as registered Democrats. He-who-must-not-be-named ran as an insurgent against the Republican establishment (regardless of whom he’s appointing now), and his brand out-sold the party brand.
When I say “Democratic Party” can you get three registered Democrats to even agree on what the hell it stands for? We liberals spent the last 18 months crowing about the crisis in the GOP, how they had been revealed as a rump party of old white fundamentalist racists that would doubtless implode from within after Hillary took her rightful place on the Iron Throne. But now, the identity crisis in the Democratic party has been laid bare. Oh, the brand remains, but where is its soul? What do we represent?
Worse still, with Obama term-limited and Hillary Clinton defeated, our bench looks woefully thin. 33 states have Republican governors, and 32 have GOP-majority legislatures.
Right-wing voters energized by the election of Barack Obama in 2008 rallied thousands of previously disengaged citizens, and gave them their first taste of political action with the Tea Party. Today, the Democratic party needs its own grassroots insurrectionist movement, like the Tea Party was for Republicans. We need to primary incumbent Democrat legislators who aren’t doing enough for working people, women, minorities, and the environment, at the state and national level. We need to demand better from our team, and declare a vision for America that will motivate our citizens like nothing seen since FDR.
In the context of all that political action, we’re going to need a fresh brand. So let’s brainstorm a little. What should we call this movement for change within the Democratic Party?
“Tea Party” struck me as corny (especially when used as an acroynm for “Taxed Enough Already”), but I can’t deny its sticky virality. It was media friendly, and it appealed to the idea of rebellion as patriotic.
There are already groups out there, like Bernie’s “Our Revolution”, “Think Progress”, “Wolf PAC” that are doing good work, but let’s keep trying ideas until something really catches on.
Occupy energized young voters, but got bogged down running urban campgrounds and generally eschewing the Democratic Party as a shill for multinational corporate interests (not entirely inaccurately).
Other brands I wouldn’t adopt:
Coffee Party — Already taken, too clearly derived from the Tea Party. Also, not clear what direct political action has been taken by this group.
Progressive Party — Too much historical baggage.
If you’ll indulge me in a bit of creative thinking, consider:
Orchard Movement — The changes that matter most will be the work of decades, not a few years. The orchard symbolizes working for the good of future generations, and caring for our planet.
One Family — Progress can be seen as accepting ever broader groups of people as “my group.” We came a long way from only treating only our small kin group as “us” — and the success of modern society hinges on inclusion of all races, creeds, orientations, and abilities. One Family is committed to human flourishing and care for the planet, our home.
Kinder Party — This is inspired by George Lakoff’s work on framing and naming. Imagine if every time our movement was mentioned, reporters were required to evoke a frame of kindness. Surely, this would be mocked, and we’d have to expect religious conservatives to question how kind we are to fetal humans, but calling ourselves Kinder would also remind us to excel at empathy and even love in our every action and communication. When they go low, we get Kinder. It also has the bonus prize that if someone mispronounces it (as in “kindergarten”), then we’re invoking the frame of children, who need our best. We can be the movement that promotes what is best for children — for many generations to come.
What are your ideas? What new brand would rally the progressive-minded citizens to get active and politics and demand change?