Democrats, The Papa John’s of Politics

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

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

Here we go everyone! Let’s all gather round the politics tree and wait until we see what Santa Schumer has brought us because it’s MIDTERM ELECTIONS SLOGAN REVEAL TIME!

OK, maybe your family is different than mine (remember when they revealed the “Bridge to the 21st Century”? What a day!), but the Democratic party leadership has been hyping this product refresh for a while. “Economically cutting edge!” they tell us. I can’t wait to hear more about it! Tell me more, most powerful elected Democrat in the country, Sen. Chuck Schumer, with George Stephanopoulos:

“And, finally, we’re going to have, tomorrow, a very novel idea of how to create 10 million jobs. There are 10 million Americans looking for good-paying jobs. We’re going to show them how to find them.

And that’s just the beginning. Week after week, month after month, we’re going to roll out specific pieces here, that are quite different than the Democratic Party you heard in the past. We were too cautious. We were too namby-pamby.”

Hot shit, right? Reminds me of all those mid-game locker room chats Coach Taylor would give in “Friday Night Lights”: Clear Eyes, Clear Hearts, Can’t be Namby Pamby. WE LOVE YOU COACH.

The actual slogan goes as follows):

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

Here’s where all the fireworks will go off. The whole room is covered in confetti and the world knows that there is a Better Deal™.

This did not go over well among the general political media. The obvious Republican operators made fun of the slogan for sounding a lot like that of Papa John’s (Better Ingredients, Better Pizza).

I don’t actually believe the slogan is the absolute worst one ever like people on the internet are insisting.The code monkey liberal technocrat shout out that is the line “Better Skills” definitely stuck out to me as a marketized calling for everyone to learn to code Alexa integration apps. The tech industry has become one of the most powerful forces in American politics.Between companies like Uber hiring David Ploufe from the Obama team to the influence of vampiric anarcho capitalist Peter Thiel in the Trump organization, the power of tech is felt deeply among the political class. The wishes and political projects of the tech industry are delightfully bipartisan issues.

Beyond the implicit demand that music classes be replaced by computer programming in middle school that the word “Skills” evokes, the general sentiment behind the rest of the slogan is … okay. It could be worse.

So why does this slogan ring so hollow? The biggest problem with “the Better Deal” is who’s promising it to us. While the reality of President Trump has changed a lot about our politics, there needs to be something of a decent track record on issues that people both in and outside of the Democratic Party care about. I cannot think of an industry that Democratic voters and progressives could agree to hate more, yet the Senate Majority leader and most powerful elected Democrat in the country is deeply connected to the finance sector, and has a terrible record from being a “tough on crime” Democrat in the 90s. It is hard to take much solace in such a political record..

At least this slogan has some kind of broad policy topics you could extrapolate from its verbiage. It is an improvement from the Clinton general election campaign which was shown to be mostly devoid of policy messaging in their television advertising. And while there have been policy successes for the party, informing the electorate on many of the more left leaning aspect is anathema to the center left’s sensibilities. In Democratic politics, we are used to hearing Pollyanna pablum that at its clearest can be described as vague. The politico speak made fun of in campaign parodies is so similar to actual campaign sloganeering that you can easily just play a game of “real or made-up campaign slogan.”

The big viral hit of the slogan was the similarity to that of the “better than nothing” suburban pizza mega corporation, Papa John’s. The similarity to the Papa John’s slogan makes it practically unavoidable for articles to be littered with pizza puns (“Can Democrats deliver?” “The Democrats new slogan like bad pizza slice.”) If the main reasoning for the Papa John’sesque slogan was just to piss off Papa John’s CEO and hardcore Obama hater John Schnatter, I would tattoo “I’m With Her” on my forehead. Please let this be true. Most likely it is nothing but a coincidence of the worst kind. The Democratic party, like Papa John’s, is an amalgamation of things that should be good, but is never anyone’s first choice and only looks good in comparison to the competition (I’m looking at you, Little Ceaser’s).

I believe we can change the Democratic party. We are already seeing this change happen at the grassroots level on issues like Medicare for All and campaign finance. Change is possible, but we can’t expect a slogan to solve these deep structural problems. If Democrats really believe in their “Better Deal” then they can get to work busting up corporate monopolies, destroying the health care cartel bankrupting the country, and supporting Black Lives Matter. The only way for Democrats to return to power and make a “better deal” is through policy and action. They must build a track record of policy achievements beyond simply saying they are being better than Republicans.

However, I will be taking that extra box of pizza, thank you very much.

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