More on Democratic message strategy in Texas – the Overton Window

In a previous post we put forward Thoughts on a Democratic message in Texas. To expand on that the crucial part is to get a two-pronged message to Texans, many who don’t vote and those who vote for GOP candidates, many times against their own best interests.  One facet of the message is to move the Overton Window, or expand the issues that are part of the political discussion in Texas.

If you’re not familiar with the Overton Window Wikipedia describes it like this:

A political theory that describes as a narrow “window” the range of ideas the public will accept. On this theory, an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within that window rather than on politicians’ individual preferences.

[…]

The Overton Window is an approach to identifying which ideas define the domain of acceptability within a democratic republic’s possible governmental policies. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public in order to move and/or expand the window. Proponents of current policies, or similar ones, within the window seek to convince people that policies outside it should be deemed unacceptable. [Emphasis added]

In other words it set’s the rules for what’s acceptable in the current political debate. In Texas there are many common sense ideas that are currently outside the window. Raising the minimum wage, a more fair tax system which would include a progressive income tax, and paying for roads and infrastructure as we go, just to name a few. Here’s a good article on how Elizabeth Warren and national Democrats have started to move the window on Social Security, Take that, Paul Ryan! Elizabeth Warren beats back Social Security plot.

It’s safe to say that, within the bipartisan oligarchy, the alleged need to cut Social Security remains the consensus. But the Overton Window has shifted just a little to the left, and the idea of expanding Social Security, hitherto invisible through the frame, is now in the public field of vision.

All the talk for the last many years regarding Social Security has revolved solely around cutting it.  Which the majority of the American people oppose, but the wealthy, Wall Street, and the politicians they bankroll support it.  Enter Elizabeth Warren and several other Democrats, along with some grassroots support, and now the conversation has changed.  From how much to cut, to not cutting, with whispers of expanding Social Security.

Yes, I am aware of how toxic and deadly talk of a progressive income tax is seen to be in Texas. And I’m not going to compare the popularity of Social Security to that of a state income tax in Texas.  But it, along with many other issues, must be discussed if the window is ever to move, even to the center in Texas. Even though an income tax in Texas is virtually impossible to get enacted, it can be used to highlight the unfairness of the tax system is in Texas, (more here).  And it can be used to change the discussion on taxes from no way no how, to how can they be used to pay for things we need.

Of course there are many more important issues then a state income tax. Other issues like the minimum wage, quality public schools, affordable higher education, wage theft, and expanding Medicaid for example. These are also issues the GOP does not want to talk about. Democrats must start talking to voters about how the government can once again be there to make their lives better. And key to that is Texans knowing there are people running that will fight for the issues they care about if elected. For too long our state government has been neglecting the people of Texas, and just looking out for those at the top.

There are certainly many elected Democrats in Texas that can certainly start pointing out the more progressive policy prescriptions that need to get into the political discussion in our state. Garnet Coleman and Eddie Rodriguez are two that come to mind, but there are many more, who have done this. Hopefully the Democrats will put together a two-pronged strategy where some candidates talk to the base, while other candidates talk to the Independents and moderate Republicans.

The point is that for Texas just to get back to a more sane and sensible discussion about the kind of policies we need, there must be serious and sustained push back from the left. We’ve come a long way in 20 years from the so-called “compassionate conservatism” frame of George W. Bush, to the secession talk and hatred of the federal government of today’s Texas GOP.  In Texas the GOP has ceded the middle, and there’s a lot of space for Democrats to put forth a message that contrasts with the cruelty of the GOP’s. It’s time for Texas Democrats to move the Overton Window and expand the policies that are possible.

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3 Responses

  1. […] Eye On Williamson digs deeper into how the Democrats in Texas must move the policy discussion back to the left, so it can get to where it needs to be. More on Democratic message strategy in Texas – the Overton Window. […]

  2. […] Eye On Williamson digs deeper into how the Democrats in Texas must move the policy discussion back to the left, so it can get to where it needs to be. More on Democratic message strategy in Texas – the Overton Window. […]

  3. […] Eye On Williamson digs deeper into how the Democrats in Texas must move the policy discussion back to the left, so it can get to where it needs to be. More on Democratic message strategy in Texas – the Overton Window. […]

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