It’s time for Wash­ing­ton to speak the peo­ple’s lan­guage

The Covington News - - OPINION - SCOTT RAS­MUSSEN COLUM­NIST To find out more about Scott Ras­mussen, and read fea­tures by other Creators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit

Like tod­dlers who be­lieve they are the center of the universe, many in of­fi­cial Wash­ing­ton whine about the fact the Amer­i­can peo­ple don’t de­vote more time to study­ing pol­i­tics and talk­ing about the things that mat­ter in our cap­i­tal city.

This view has it back­wards. In­stead, Wash­ing­ton needs to deal with the things that mat­ter in Amer­ica.

Nancy Duarte, an ex­pert in the art of per­sua­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ar­gues that the fail­ure to con­nect al­ways lies with the pre­sen­ter of in­for­ma­tion, not the au­di­ence. In her book “Res­onate,” she puts it this way: “The au­di­ence does not need to tune them­selves to you -- you need to tune your mes­sage to them.”

The power of tun­ing in to the Amer­i­can peo­ple was demon­strated more than 100 years ago at the found­ing of an Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant.

As the 20th cen­tury be­gan, au­to­mo­biles were the toys of the rich and fa­mous. One ex­pert pro­claimed, “There will never be more than a mil­lion cars on earth be­cause there will never be enough chauf­feurs.”

De­spite that dire pre­dic­tion, 485 auto com­pa­nies were cre­ated in the first decade of the 20th cen­tury. In 1903 alone, 57 new auto man­u­fac­tur­ers were founded, and 27 went bank­rupt. One of those 1903 star­tups was founded by Henry Ford, and it changed the world.

Ford took on a dif­fer­ent view of the au­to­mo­bile. Rather than ex­pect­ing spe­cial­ists to learn about how a car worked so they could be­come chauf­feurs, Ford built a car that any­body could af­ford to buy and learn to drive. To ac­com­plish this goal, he changed ev­ery­thing about the way cars were built and sold.

Ford’s in­no­va­tive as­sem­bly line dra­mat­i­cally cut the worker time needed to build a car, which al­lowed Ford to con­tin­u­ally cut con­sumer prices. A Model T sold for $800 in 1909 and, de­spite in­fla­tion, just $295 two decades later. He also in­vented the con­cept of fran­chised deal­er­ships to sell and ser­vice cars.

Rather than set­tling for a world lim­ited to a mil­lion cars, Ford changed the auto in­dus­try to meet the needs of or­di­nary Amer­i­cans. By 1920, his com­pany alone sold more than a mil­lion cars in a sin­gle year.

Ford didn’t just come up with a clever line about build­ing a car that ev­ery­one could learn to drive; he backed it up with a prod­uct that matched the rhetoric.

In Amer­ica to­day, the po­lit­i­cal class is good with the rhetoric , but has noth­ing to back it up. In fact, rather than try­ing to con­nect with main­stream Amer­ica, it has cre­ated an en­tirely new lan­guage to mask the dif­fer­ence be­tween what it says and what it does.

Us­ing the Amer­i­can def­i­ni­tion of a spend­ing cut, for ex­am­ple, last year’s so-called se­quester mod­estly slowed the growth of gov­ern­ment spend­ing. How­ever, us­ing the lan­guage of the po­lit­i­cal class, it was rou­tinely re­ported as caus­ing “mas- sive spend­ing cuts.” This al­lowed politi­cians to say they were cut­ting spend­ing with­out ac­tu­ally cut­ting spend­ing.

This is ex­actly the op­po­site of what Ford did. Ford rec­og­nized that the key to suc­cess was mak­ing a car that was easy for the Amer­i­can peo­ple to un­der­stand and use.

For those who be­lieve in the found­ing ideals of our na­tion, the goal should be to make a gov­ern­ment that is eas­ier for the peo­ple to drive. The first step is to start speak­ing the same lan­guage.

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