A slogan is about more than ownership or comedy…

Democrats and Republicans got into a snit last week over who owns a slogan. The Democrats unveiled “Securing America’s Future for All Our Families” as a description of their domestic agenda. The Republicans claimed ownership of the first part of the slogan, which they have used since 1999. The New York Times and the Washington Post carried stories outlining the spat this week. The Times article is a bit more thoughtful (the post played it for a chuckle) and preceded the Post article by two days. The Times observed:

“One problem with look-alike, sound-alike politics is that it is misleading. Voters who hear both parties talking about the need for a plan for energy security or the need for a prescription drug plan may wonder why nothing happens. Only if they listen to the details will they learn that profound ideological disagreements still exist about what such legislation should look like, making compromise difficult between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-run Senate.”

The Democrats tacked “for all our families” onto the Republican slogan as a way to differentiate their agenda and, as I would argue, to suggest that Republicans may have a less inclusive audience in mind for their concept of security–a purely emotional appeal. That policy differences exist between the agendas is clear. That either slogan highlights those differences is dubious.

Politics is often about winning the battle of definitions. So this is not a silly snit. The Times article takes this situation seriously. That the Post article does not is troubling. Sloganeering moves hearts not minds. Once hearts are moved, the details are less likely to move minds. As long as they get the voters’ support, politicians are unlikely to care whether that support is based on emotion or logic.