When policy debates heat up, it’s not enough for policy analysts to run the numbers and for political analysts to count votes and gauge the influence of affected interests. You also need communicators to craft a crisp, clean message. One that resonates with listeners consciously and, if possible, subconsciously.
Every word counts. As a result, one of the key communication battlegrounds is very basic: What do you call the policy? If you can win the naming battle, you are a long way toward winning the policy war.
Having participated in a number of these debates, I would like to offer the following conjecture, which I will boldly characterize as a rule:
The Rule of Three: If debate about an economic policy is sufficiently important, that policy will have three different names: one used by proponents, one used by opponents, and one used by non-partisan agencies that don’t want to take sides.
That rule is asserting itself today in the debate over reforming the health care system, much as it did in the debate over Social Security a few years ago.