Time for Washington to Speak the Language of the American People

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.”

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The power of tuning in to the American people was demonstrated more than a hundred 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 “massive 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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