Wednesday, August 16, 2006 :::
At the last Sorensen gathering, Barnie Day spoke to us about messaging in political campaigns. One of the points Barnie raised was entirely new to me. He called it "dog whistle" messaging:
The phrase originated in Australian politics in 1999 -- quickly spread to Britain -- and is now pretty well understood here. It is messaging delivered to a broad audience but targeted -- through the use of code words -- specifically only at those you want to hear it.
Upon reflection, there are any number of examples of this in American politics. But there is a prime example of "dog whistle" messaging in today's Wall Street Journal, where Senate candidate Ned Lamont has an op-ed that attempts to call several different hounds at the same time.
He discusses at some length his business experience and his background as an entrepreneur -- everything from securing his first bank loan to "...pulling cable, hiring workers, picking a good health-care plan, closing deals, listening to customers and fixing problems."
Which hounds might respond to this? The business community, of course. But in particular, the NFIB members who have to get their hands dirty every day keeping ther businesses afloat. And many of them, even in Connecticut, are typically not inclined to pull the lever for a Democrat. But might they consder doing so this time for a guy who can identify with their every day life? Perhaps.
There are more whistles in the piece...
"I am a fiscal conservative and our people want their government to be sparing and sensible with their tax dollars." (Here, fiscal conservatives, here boy!)
"The quality of our work force is one of America's competitive advantages -- if our education system fails our children and our employers, we'll lose the future." (the Chamber of Commerce's ears just perked-up).
"These defining lessons of my business experience are central in my campaign: identifying the challenges that face our state and offering real solutions. Something clearly worked, because the voters decided to do what our Founding Fathers envisioned; they put their trust not in a career politician but in a concerned citizen and experienced businessman who promises to rock the boat down in Washington." (Anti-incumbent voters are taking notice...and somewhere, Mark Warner just smiled).
There are more "dog whistles" here, of course -- for the anti-war crowd in particular. will it make any difference? That remains to be seen. Some folks I talk to believe Lieberman will drop out of the race long before election day, thus clearing Lamont's path. I'm not so sure.
But in this one Journal piece signals to my ears that Lamont is trying to hasten Lieberman's withdrawl, hitting the notes and using the "code words" that get the attention of folks who otherwise wouldn't touch his campaign with a borrowed ten foot pole.
It got mine.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 8/16/2006