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Steve Jobs for DNC Chair: Transmitting A Simple, Coherent Message

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About ten years ago, shortly after his return to Apple, Steve Jobs gave a motivational speech defining the company's core values. (Via Gizmodo.)

Marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it's a very noisy world, and we're not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. And so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.

Our customers want to know, who is Apple, and what is it that we stand for? Where do we fit in this world? And what we're about isn't making boxes for people to get their jobs done, although we do that well. We do that better than almost anybody, in some cases.

But Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core, its core value, is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That's what we believe.

Substitute "politics" for "marketing," "party" for "company," and "Democratic Party" for "Apple," and you've got a clear values statement and messaging strategy for getting the American people behind our efforts to move this nation forward. Even "making boxes for people to get their jobs done" is an apt metaphor for what the Democratic Party does, if only that.

You also have a clear answer as to why the Democrats, with our large post-2008 majorities, have failed to rally the nation behind our agenda: because the American people have no idea what we stand for.

Hell, I'm not sure even most Democrats have a clear idea what we stand for.

I've long said that the biggest difference between Democrats and Republicans is that we believe in government, while they do not. But Jobs says it much better. Indeed, apply his "people with passion can change the world for the better" to a national context, put a Boston patrician accent on it, and it would sound downright JFK-esque.

Republicans don't really believe this. Sure, they've got their blind faith in the efficiencies of an unfettered free market that they like to promote as a defense of rugged individualism, but it's really rooted in a sorta value-neutral if not mean-spirited social Darwinism that pretty much advocates every man for himself. Survival of the fittest, and all that. If the rich exploit the poor, the strong exploit the weak, well, that's the natural order.

And while I suppose Republicans might even seek to twist Jobs' value statement to fit their own philosophy, remember, Jobs was talking about the values of a company -- an organization... a collection of individuals working together toward a common goal -- in the same way that Democrats should be talking about the values of our nation.

Democrats too believe that people with passion can change the world for the better, both acting collectively through government, and individually through our market economy. That is the core belief that binds us together, and like Apple, our primary goal should be to provide the opportunity for people with passion to do what they do best.

Politics, like marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it's a very noisy world, and we're not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No party or politician is. And so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.

The American people want to know who is the Democratic Party, and what is it that we stand for? Where do we fit in this world? And what we're about isn't making policies for people to get jobs, although we do that well. We do that better than almost anybody, in some cases.

But the Democratic Party is about something more than that. The Democratic party at the core, its core value, is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That's what we believe.

And it's time for the Democratic Party to get behind such a simple, coherent message.

[David Goldstein writes on WA politics at HorsesAss.org]