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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: January 2010

4 - Promotion


After the 2004 elections, newly reelected President Bush launched a major initiative to reform Social Security. The centerpiece of his plan was a proposal to allow voters to place a portion of their Social Security contributions in individual accounts to allow more diverse and potentially more profitable investment opportunities. Republicans were initially quite hopeful about the President's plan. As one advisor put it, “If this is successful, this will define the Bush administration for the next 100 years. People who are more independent and don't feel dependent on the government are more likely to be available to the Republican Party” (Rosenbaum 2005, 20).

Democrats, in contrast, were wary and fearful about the President's plan, particularly after their wrenching electoral defeat the previous November. Democratic leaders in Congress created a carefully worded response, using simple narratives to attack the Bush proposal: “The first, titled ‘Privatization: A Gamble You Can't Afford to Take,’ stressed the insecurity of middle-class families and compared Bush's plan to a roll of the dice. The second, ‘The Magical World of Privatization,’ spun out a metaphor that centered on Bush as ‘an old-fashioned traveling salesman, with a cart full of magic elixirs and cure-all tonics’ ” (Bai 2005, 8). The Democratic leaders hoped that the rank-and-file members of their party would adopt and discuss these themes as their own.

But, the Democratic followers certainly enjoyed other options. The legislators could have kept silent, free riding on others' promotion of the themes while receiving the partisan benefits of that promotion.

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