A passage from Lion of the Senate: When Ted Kennedy Rallied the Democrats in a GOP Congress: Littlefield, Nick, Nexon, David: 9781476796154: Amazon.com: Books by Nick Littlefield and David Nexon:
The best strategy for Democrats is to identify the issues that matter to working families- health care, education, jobs and wages- and hold every Republican action and every Democratic initiative to the standard of how it affects middle- and low-income Americans…
…The American people didn’t want Medicare to”wither away.” They didn’t want government to stop protecting them against unsafe water or polluted air or dangerous pesticides. They wanted the federal government to do more to improve education, not less. They didn’t want senior citizens left to the untender mercies of the nursing home industry, and they wanted health security for their own families and for eery other family as well. Fighting against the Gingrich agenda was not only critical for the American people: it was good politics for the Democrats.
Furthermore, people all over the country depended on Kennedy for leadership for their causes: blue-collar workers, minorities, immigrants, the poor, the LGBT community, the elderly, children. These people and their champions in Washington and Massachusetts and across the country had been allies of Kennedy’s for years. There was no question that they needed him now, as they were the ones in the sights of the Contract With America. They knew he would not stand aside while the Republicans sought to decimate the programs on which they depended. Other Democrats would help, but Kennedy had to lead the charge…
…Kennedy was a master of the legislative process, so after six years in the majority I had learned something about how legislation moved. There were three components to our strategy that had worked over and over again: substance, politics, and public relations.
The first requirement involved researching the substance thoroughly to get the initiative or strategy just right and to prepare to respond to every question and challenge. Kennedy insisted that there was no substitute for exhaustive research, analysis, discussion, and preparation. He always tried to know more about the subject before him than anyone else, whether the venue was a committee markup, a floor debate, a caucus discussion, or a meeting among senators. he believed that knowledge was power.
The second element was politics, which included an “inside game” and an “outside game.” The inside game covered the strategy in the Senate, on the Hill, and in the administration. Here we benefited from Kennedy’s ability to gather bipartisan support for whatever he was doing, whether he was in the majority or the minority. He knew the importance of building relationships with Republicans- conservative Republicans at that- and using these relationships to forge important alliances on bills. This inside game also included working with Democrats to make sure they would be supportive, even if they were not as committed to the initiative as we were.
The outside game was equally important. This refereed to the grassroots support for the initiative, spread as broadly as possible across the country. We usually started by organizing this support in Washington with the national groups concerned about whatever legislative we were working on, but quickly expanded the effort through the groups or directly to the grassroots. here the senator emphasized that legislators needed to hear from their constituents at home to know that the issue was important enough to act on.
The third broad component of our approach was the public relations or marketing effort. Our allies never had as much money as the opposition, so we couldn’t run major television advertising campaigns. But recognizing the Washington adage that nothing happened if it didn’t happen in the press, we focused on the so-called unpaid media- the free press. Because politicians respond to issues that are in the public eye, we were constantly engaged in organizing public events and drumming up news around each of our initiatives. We worked for endorsements, held rallies, reviewed and publicized polls, sought out- and sometimes developed ourselves- reports and studies that could be released to create news. We held hearings that were designed to generate media interest. Sometimes the effort put into an event seemed immensely disproportionate to the coverage it received, but the cumulative effect was what was important.
The three elements worked together, and each was indispensable to success. Without the substance you couldn’t assemble the political coalitions or motivate the public interest allies or fend off the arguments of political opponents. Without the politics you didn’t have the support necessary to get anything done. Without a press strategy there was no energy or pressure behind an initiative to cause it to emerge from among the hundreds of other ideas and causes competing for attention.