What Good Political Messaging Is

Julie Hotard
5 min readAug 5, 2022

One of the questions I most frequently get asked as a disinformation expert is: What is good messaging? What kind of messaging can counteract at least some of the propaganda lies in which millions of Americans are immersed?

Messages need to make use of mass media and spread truth to the same audience that is being targeted with lies — and at the same scale.

Very little if anything is being done to counteract propaganda coming from Right Wing media. I’m still waiting for some liberal donors or organizations to take that ball and run with it. Below is a list of donors and organizations that could help, if you would like to join me in contacting them to request help for Dems in the area of messaging to counteract Right Wing media disinformation.

Dems are lacking in the kind of infrastructure Republicans have, to help with many different areas of functioning. Dems could also use help in counteracting Republican attempts to take over public schools and state election systems. So feel free to add to your request, other areas where Dems need help, that are of most concern to you.

Though we aren’t counteracting Right Wing media lies much at all in any effective way, there are a number of groups and individuals spreading truth to voters who consume mainstream media and/or social media — including low information voters.

This is very important, since mainstream media are themselves Right Wing biased — but in more subtle ways than Fox or Right Wing radio.

Media Often Cause Events to Happen (like GOP Wins) Rather than Simply Reporting

Here are a few organizations that inform people in this way: Strikepac.com , Don Winslow who posts his videos @donwinslow on Twittter, and https://www.meidastouch.com/

Here’s an example of a very clear direct messaging campaign that was shown to be highly effective.

The Kansas No project wasdone to promote votes against the amendment that would have enabled the state government to take away women’s health care choices. They made some very impactful ads.

Below is a threadreader app of a Twitter thread on the subject, by political analyst Bill Scher, that describes the messages and their essential components quite well. (For some reason when I link to Threadreader aps, the title of the link is often something unrelated. If you ignore that & just click & go to the threadreader ap page, it gives you the correct thread though.)

Jon Stewart also used some good strategies in his campaign to get Congress to pass legislation for medical benefits for veterans suffering from ailments related to burn pits.

Here is a threadreader app of a Twitter thread, describing what Jon Stewart did in that successful campaign. It’s by Emmy winning film and TV writer Melissa Jo Peltier.

These were both great well done campaigns. They are great role models for other campaigns. However, it’s important also to be aware of their limits.

Jon Stewart’s campaign was done to get a single bill passed by Congress. The Kansas No project was done to defeat a single amendment that would have removed abortion rights protections from their State Constitution.

It’s an important but ugly truth in a representative democracy that it doesn’t generally matter what bills or amendments voters want or don’t want — in the sense of voters getting what they want. It generally only matters what the representatives, whom the voters vote for, want. For example, the results of the KS vote could later be changed in various ways by their state legislature or state courts. The burn pit bill could be changed later by Congress.

That’s how power works in our system. Once elected, at least some representatives do what they want and ignore what voters want. This has become more and more relevant since one of our two political parties began ignoring what votes want more and more often — depending on gerrymandering, voter suppression and state election system manipulation to get the results they want at the polls.

Here are the results of that situation. If voters want women’s rights — but they vote GOP because Right Wing media have convinced them that Democrats are Commie pedos — then voters don’t get those rights. If voters want sensible gun regulations — but vote GOP because the Forward Party or mainstream media have convinced voters that the Left is just as extreme as the Right, and that the GOP is the party that does better at stabilizing the economy — then voters don’t get sensible gun regulations.

For this reason, the most important messaging campaigns are those to promote Democratic candidates for the House, the Senate, and state and local government offices.

Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman is a great role model in this area. He’s very direct and to the point, both about what he stands for and the dangers posed by his GOP opponent. His web site is at johnfetterman.com . Here are some statements he recently made on Twitter:

“I am the pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker, pro-democracy candidate for PA Senate in 2022.”

“Deeply honored to have the support of @HRC Hillary Rodham Clinton.)”

“I will proudly stand up for LGBTQIA+ rights + equality as PA’s next Senator.”

“We can *never* allow Social Security + Medicare to be weakened by the GOP Dr. Oz would be another vote to take away these critical lifelines for our seniors.”

For any of you who would like to read about what the components of good messaging are, here’s a great short book on the subject. You may be surprised that it contains the word “warfare.”

However, politics is war. Someone wins and someone loses. If you want to win, you must be prepared to fight — and to do so effectively. The examples in the book are about international situations, but most of the same processes apply to domestic political contests.

It’s the best book I know of, that makes clear how to use narrative, culture and identity — not just facts — in persuasion. This is essential. Many Democrats have yet to learn how to do this well.

Narrative Warfare by Ajit Maan, Ph.D., 2018

So there they are: Some good examples of clear direct impactful messaging plus a good book for those who want to learn more about the subject.

Catch you good folks later.