Zen Political Research
3240 38th Street NW
Washington DC 20016
Connect with voters on the economy.
Zen Political Research has developed a new system for helping Democratic candidates, campaigns, and progressive interest groups communicate more effectively their plans to get the economy growing and create good jobs. We are offering this system as a training for candidates, key staff, and progressive groups that are seeking an economic message they can deliver with passion and authenticity.
Our system places special emphasis on the answer to the HOW question:
How will Democrats get the economy growing and create good jobs?
All Democratic candidates need a response to this question that voters hear as a real answer – not just a slogan, and not just a list of policy proposals. In just a few words, Democratic candidates need to be able to explain their deeper-level diagnosis of what’s wrong with the economy and their higher-level plans to fix it.
We Democrats have a lot of policies to improve people’s economic lives, but voters are tuning out our 10-point plans. What is needed instead is a 10-word explanation of our overall approach to the economy. All Democratic candidates must be ready with a clear statement of their economic views that lets voters know we understand what’s wrong with the economy and we know what to do to fix it.
Democrats have lots of coherent answers to the economic HOW question.
The good news is Democrats have several message frames that meet this challenge (or come close) and convey the broad logic of our economic approaches and the deeper values upon which they are based. The bad news is there are several answers and all Democrats do not agree on just one approach.
“Sheri and Allan Rivlin really listened to my ideas on the economy and then were able to distill a clear economic message based on my words and tailored to my background and the needs of the voters in my area. The whole exercise gives me confidence that I know what to do to get the local economy going and that I know how to explain my views to voters.”
A Democratic challenger in a
top DCCC 2018 targeted race
6 Democratic Economic Message Frames
We have distilled six overlapping Democratic economic message frames that together include all of the many diverse voices in our party. We believe all types of Democrats (progressives, populists, moderates, etc.) need better economic messaging, even if all cannot agree on a single message. So we have been working to improve:
1) the Middle-Class Frame
2) the Inequality Frame
3) the Future Growth Frame
4) the Stronger Together Frame
5) the Consumer Driven Economy Frame
6) the Sustainable Growth Frame
Each of the frames is designed to answer the HOW question as would various elements within the Democratic coalition. Some believe we must strengthen the middle class to strengthen the economy. Others believe we must address political and economic inequality. Some believe discrimination and a broken immigration system are holding the economy back. Some see growth in the future coming from more green jobs or from a greater investment in new businesses, technology, and innovation. Each of the frames can be presented persuasively and can be viewed as complimentary with other frames.
Which of these message frames is best? Our answer is that the best economic message is the one the candidate believes and can deliver with passion and authenticity. Our goal is to help candidates find their own best economic message.
The frames have been in development for several years and are constantly evolving as we have conversations with, and gain the perspectives from, more economists and policy analysts, more pollsters and message strategists, and most importantly, more elected leaders and candidates. Together they reflect the many ways different groups of Democrats and progressives have offered as effective ways to explain our plans to get the economy moving, create more growth and jobs, raise wages, and increase economic security and opportunity.
Economic Message Workshops:
Candidates for office. key campaign staff, and progressive organization staff can learn the Zen Political Research system and develop confidence delivering authentic economic messages in several ways. We provide message development and training and coaching sessions for individuals and groups. This includes face-to-face sessions, and in some cases, we can get started over the telephone.
Whether individual or group, face-to-face or over the phone, the basic path of the training is the same:
1) First, we listen to participants to understand their economic views. We especially want to understand what candidates and organizers have been hearing from locals about the economic challenges they have been facing. The economic message must address the core concerns of the constituents.
2) Then we guide participants through the economic message frames we have distilled. We answer questions and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each frame and different ways to use them separately or in combination.
3) We then allow participants time to settle on the frame or combination of frames that they feel most comfortable using to explain their own plan to get the economy growing, create good jobs, increase economic security, and open up economic opportunity for the families and individuals in their area.
4) The final section of each training concentrates on responding to questions. We help candidates answer questions from voters, from the press, and in debates by teaching several pathways that move the conversation from the voters' specific concerns to the deeper level problems with the economy and the candidate's higher level plans to make things better.
After the training sessions, Zen political research will be on hand to help candidates to tell their story in speeches, web pages, and campaign materials, and we help connect campaigns to key facts to back up their positions.
If you are interested in participating in one of our workshops, please send us an email. Click on this box to get started