WHO CAN DO BETTER THAN "WE CAN DO BETTER"? There has been a certain amount of sneering disappointment, mostly from liberals, about the rather milquetoast mantra developed by the Democrats: �America Can Do Better.� Yes, the phrase is vague and policy inspecific, and thus seemingly says everything and therefore nothing all at once.

Yet semantically, it�s hard to beat the theme �America can do better.� Substitute �we� for �America,� and you have what has to be the pithiest statement of potency anyone in any campaign (politics, sports, military) might fashion. Indeed, in just four words -- and merely 13* letters, no less -- look at what this tag line suggests:

  • �We� is first-person plural, thus connoting unity and inclusiveness. Though substituting �America� lends a patriotic flavor, I prefer �we� because it also implies a �them� -- an opponent or foe.
  • �Can� suggests ability and capacity to accomplish something, a means and a method. It also connotes readiness and competence.
  • �Do� is the action verb nonpareil. Those who can do, as the saying goes -- hence the �can-do� ethic and a sense of a self-starter�s initiative and pluck.
  • �Better� is optimistic and hopeful, a sentiment that both recognizes that the glass is only half full yet believes the other half can be filled. Better is also comparative, suggesting that the other team is doing a substandard job.

I defy readers to develop a tag line with fewer words (fewer than 13 letters seems to me utterly impossible) that transmits so much. There are negative messages -- the best among them being �Had enough?� or simply �Enough!� -- that are more efficient, but they only suggest what you should be weary, not hopeful.

If most elections inevitably devolve into the �change or more of the same� question, you can�t do much better in one quick breath that to argue �we (America) can do better.� It�s the pithiest way of promising positive changes from people more capable of delivering them than the folks currently in charge.

*D'oh, bad math fixed.

--Tom Schaller