Banish the P Word

There is a serious fault line in the Democratic candidates’ approach to the 2020 primary,that has to do with the use of an abashed word (I hesitate here): Plan. There, I said it, okay? 

Dem candidates take note: Hillary had plans, lots of plans. Nobody wants to hear about plans. It’s MEGO (makes eyes glaze over) time. Hillary had all those plans on her website. Everybody who read them, raise their hands; Or so I thought. 

“I have a plan for that” is like telling anti-vaxers you have a vaccine for that. When you use your catch phrase as a punchline, you might start thinking about getting some new writers on the team. Do not say the P-word again. 

A plan takes Building and Safety six months and $10,000 to approve. A plan is boring. A plan is where poison pills are hidden; a secret plan is what Mitch McConnell had all along, ever since the Bork nomination failed, for capturing the U.S. Judiciary. 

Plans are often dirty or nefarious and, as we all know, “The best laid plans of mice and men (notice women aren’t included here, a hopeful sign)…” 

We also know about having plan A, B, C; all the way down to plan Q. People make financial plans and they are all disappointing. What experience do you have with a business plan, which, of course, consumer spending does not pay attention to? How is that working out?  

Then, one of the worst: figuring out your medical plan (if you can afford one). 

The personalized P phrase, when it would currently be used but is now verboten, needs to be a version of, “This is what we need to think about… let’s take a deeper look… Here are several ways this can be done….” Then, and most importantly in public forums, go up to someone and ask them what they think. Try, “Consider this,” or, “I’m going to lay something out here,” or, “I’d like your thoughts”. Do not say “I have a Plan.” Please! 

I will caveat one arena when the use of “plan” is acceptable. When it’s “their plan,” an evil plan.  McConnell’s plan all along with the Federalist Society was to take over the judiciary for a generation. The Religious Right’s Plan is to take us back to the days of back alleys and second-class citizens. 

If you must discuss a plan-like item, use “blueprint” for the boomer crowd, and for sub-40, head towards “designing a…(fill in the broader scope here: legislative, environmental, judicial, .etc), or, “a platform that can support…(fill in the specific action item here).” 

In the end, a plan does not include the people listening. It is a done deal. It’s a menu item with no substitutions allowed. The audience needs to be able to walk away wanting to discuss the idea. People desire ownership in the solution. People want common ground with room to roam. They want to share the thought, the potential, and the creative aspect of participation (notice  I did not say “buy in.” I’ll save that tirade for another time). They want to be for something.  

Here’s an example of this principle at work: Dems, please, do not do debates, do round tables,where a handful of candidates discuss topics with a recognized smart moderator. Have a semi-circle of armchairs that the viewers/audience would find comfy. You’d look like a tin soldier, as well, if you had to stand at a podium for two hours. It has to be a conversation, a discussion, a melding of the minds; it has to be a place that shows the depth of the team, not a fight for the starting position. 

All of the current primary candidates bring serious value to the running of this country. They have strengths and weaknesses, but together, they, along with some other very interesting non-candidates, will all be in consideration for the other critical national roles if the Dems do this right and rescue our sinking ship of state.

The goal is to build interest in all the candidates so that in crunch time they can fan out around the country to their strongholds and fight for the cause. There should be some funny moments, some levity, some dead-serious table thumping, and applause from the other candidates when they make a good universal point. The focus must be on how we can construct a platform of on-the-ground actions that will provide the freedom from fear of what life may be, and replace it with the emancipation of the way life can be. 

We can be considerate, not “smart,” inquisitive, not bureaucratic; inclusive, not self-centered; discuss needs, ask, think, be involved, make friends for life in small towns, urban neighborhoods, and forgotten backstreets; and focus conversations to our commonalities and take notes.  

We, the candidates and the communities will  figure it out organically: the moms, college students, retailers, techies, construction workers, combine-driving farmers, teachers, nurses, CEOs, up-and-coming VPs, and retired everyone. 

This is the idea, the approach that I’d like to hear considered and, please, remember: there is no plan for that.  


By T J Pershing


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