Words We Can Believe In: The Hope-ful Power of "Loft"

barack obama flag loft photo

Image credit: The U.S. Army/Flickr
Richard Greene is a political communication strategist and host of Hollywood CLOUT! on Air America Radio. Tune in nightly for "The Air America/Treehugger Report" on Hollywood CLOUT! at 10:06 p.m. EST/7:06 p.m. PST, Monday - Thursday.

Just over one year after we worked our butts off for "Change We Can Believe In" and "Hope" we have found ourselves drowning in "Public Option," "Single Payer," and "Cap and Trade."

And Barack Obama's approval ratings plummet.

Feels like politics as usual.

More importantly, Barack Obama's "Magic" seems to be disappearing. As a new Communications Director steps into The White House, an able young man named Dan Pfeiffer, I "hope" that he can find the magic that lies waiting in words.

Leaders need "Loft." To be a leader one must not only use words and phrases that are easy to understand, that communicate to the average person—one who does not read Politico or The Wall Street Journal or The Huffington Post—the very essence of an idea. A leader, in politics or sales, must, at all costs, stay away from "Jargon." It is the deadly sin of communication and the Obama Administration, at least, is heading into Purgatory with it. Few, if any, really understand what "Public Option" means. Who can really describe what "Single Payer" really looks like and why it matters to them in their daily lives? And what in the world is "Cap and Trade"? Why should I care? Why should I support the President on this?

Where is the Loft???

FDR, Churchill, JFK and Reagan had "LOFT."

Thus far, Barack Obama, one of the most gifted communicators of our lifetime, has mainly ballast.

Words create loft. Words paint pictures that inspire dreams and action. Words frame everything about everything. How one "frames" an issue, becomes the issue.

So, Mr. President, and Mr. Pfeiffer, here are a few suggestions on the two biggest domestic agenda items of the moment. Because I am so tired of the health care issue, I will start with what has been called "The Cap and Trade Bill" and what I call "The Clean America Bill."

What "The Cap and Trade" Bill Is NOT About:

  • "Cap and Trade"

  • Killing business

  • Killing our economy

  • Increasing taxes (paying for externalities is not a "tax")

  • "The government takeover of energy (or business)"

  • "Global Warming" or "Climate Change" (These terms are, themselves, extremely ineffective, polarizing and lack the call for urgency and action. I would discontinue using them and also "Saving The Planet." The planet will rightfully throw us off like a pesky flea and eventually heal itself from whatever we destroy. Instead let's use "Mankind's Sustainability." Let's cut to the chase. Let's be accurate. Let's have some "loft"!)


  • Our Children's Energy

  • Our Grandchildren's Energy

  • Sustainability

  • Corporate Accountability

  • Slowly changing the way we use energy and do business

  • Punishing polluters

  • Rewarding good

  • "Honesty" and "Honest Accounting"

  • "The REAL Cost" of goods and services

  • The Beginning of the END to "Corporate Socialism" (where the public is forced to pay for the damage that corporations create and foist unto the public)

  • The Beginning of A New Era in Energy and Business

Health Care

Please, Dan, I beg of you. Please stop using words that Americans do not understand. This only allows the hated Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and others a wide open playing field to sew fear and doubt and to slam your boss. The Health Care debate should NEVER have been about the "Public Option" (I asked a room full of PhDs in a recent talk and almost none of them could describe what that term really means) or "Single Payer." Marketing is all about two things: 1) What's unique about the idea or product or service and, more importantly, 2) How that uniqueness/difference/change benefits THEM. The current debate, the endless debate about health care, has not answered either of those questions with any clarity or, certainly, loft.

The Health Care issue IS about exactly what the Republicans say it is about, but they have completely co-opted the administration on this. It IS about "Freedom," but "Freedom to be Healthy," "Freedom to Choose," "Freedom to Choose the same insurance that Congress gets," "Freedom from corporations who are required to focus on bottom line and not on your health," not "freedom" for health care corporations.

It IS about the role of government, but not as a power that emasculates or dictates or destroys. It is about leveraging the power of "the collective," all coming together to pool the resources and brilliance of 300 plus million people to create better options, better health care and a better life. That is EXACTLY what insurance companies do—they aggregate resources and risk—but they do it for profit rather than for the common good, something that government is uniquely qualified to do and can do better than anyone else.

There is so much "LOFT" in Barack Obama's very essence. You can see it in his smile, in his vision for his children and the world. Let's hope that we can begin to see it, also, in his words.

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