House Democrats and Republicans appear to be taking the same message home for August: Washington is broken.
The only difference is whom they’re pointing the finger at for breaking it.
In the Democrats’ case, the August recess marching orders for the rank and file very clearly advocate blaming the House Republican majority.
But because they also have a president to defend, the recess packet handed out Monday night includes instructions on how to promote Obamacare, slam the sequester, champion a comprehensive immigration rewrite and advocate for gun control.
Playbooks full of talking points and messaging tactics, designed to help lawmakers effectively hawk the party line back home during the five-week break from legislating, are a tradition on both sides of the aisle. More often than not, they are simply regurgitations of phrases and narratives that creatures of Capitol Hill by now know by heart.
But this year, a side-by-side comparison of the Democratic and Republican playbooks offers perspective on the parties’ starkly divergent ideologies — in terms of tone, substance and strategy.
House Democrats, in their own toolkit, have a predictable counterpoint: “Still no jobs, no budget agreement, no solution from House Republicans, and no willingness to even sit down and negotiate,” reads one Democratic talking point laid out in a section titled, “Jobs & the Budget: Democrats Focused on Solutions for Middle Class; GOP Continues NO Jobs Agenda of Obstruction, and Misplaced Priorities.”
Republican leadership’s guide to navigating the five-week district work period is seeped in the lexicon of the digital age, urging the rank and file to take to Facebook, Twitter and Vine to spread the word against the 2010 health care law and bureaucratic regulations.
Democratic leaders encourage members to use online and social media tools to “amplify events” surrounding their “Economic Agenda for Women and Families,” the party’s multi-point policy platform unveiled earlier this month. “56 percent of social network users are women,” they point out. But they don’t urge caucus lawmakers to affix a hashtag to every talking point. Rather, they suggest orchestrating intimate roundtable discussions and forums aimed at helping constituents understand the downside of the sequester. Such events should star a “real person” — a furloughed army official, for instance, or a senior citizen robbed of Meals on Wheels benefits.
Democrats are not explicitly advised to broadcast their events live on YouTube nor to live-tweet proceedings, as Republicans suggest. But they should absolutely milk media coverage for all it’s worth, inviting the press to accompany them on tours of, say, hospitals or child care centers.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.