In today’s political landscape, politicians are struggling to resonate with average Americans. They spend millions of dollars on K Street consultants to construct the right messaging through their “super accurate and sophisticated” polls. But is that really the right approach or is it simpler than that?

Politics is a game of money and popularity. The more money you have, the more popular you are. This correlation is simplified to illustrate that money can buy you prime-time advertising, which in turn raises name recognition and, ultimately, on election day will stick with the average voter when they are casting their vote at the ballot box.

Every time you turn on the news or read an article, you always hear the same catchphrases and messaging and perhaps the K Street consultants did a great job at marketing these talking points to their clients a.k.a. the politicians and convinced them that this is a winning strategy. But if we look a little deeper and understand the majority of American lifestyles, it’s far removed from those living in metropolitan areas.

Let’s explore getting back to basics. I recently had a conversation with a lady during a high-dollar, high-profile fundraiser. We talked about what motivates people to vote. We discussed the polarization of our country, and she mentioned something very interesting. She told me about her friend who has lived a privileged lifestyle as an east coast elite. When discussing politics with him, she noticed the negligence in his responses to understanding the reality of how the majority of Americans live. Trying to explain to this person what life is like for many across the country was a lost cause, so she took a different approach. She said, “You use the word ‘Summer’ as a verb, while Americans who are not in your circle of affluence, use it as a noun, and that is the difference.” This blew his mind.

This very small but nuanced example is the very reason politicians have a hard time getting voters to the polls and gaining their support. The average American family does not “summer” in exotic locations or even the Cape. The average American family is lucky if they can afford to go on one vacation a year due to other priorities and their budget. It’s imperative that politicians take the time to understand this nuance in messaging and learn about their voters and their respective lifestyles speaking to issues that impact those families directly.

Politicians and consultants alike need to be reminded that Americans are not as involved in political banter as much as the Beltway bandits. Those of us who are in DC take for granted our proximity to politics and end up drinking our own bathwater believing that everyone around the country just understands how our system works. The real concerns Americans have are: being able to put food on the table, pay their bills, and provide for their family. They don’t understand political banter and, honestly, most of the people in DC probably don’t either; they just go along with it and regurgitate whatever they hear. But this also exposes the fact that politicians and consultants think less of Americans’ intellectual abilities, therefore, reserving the right to believe that their way is the right way and that they know what is best for all Americans while refusing to understand their actual needs and take that feedback to the halls of Congress.

A great example of this phenomenon is the recent poll by CNN on voting to suspend the debt ceiling which showed that “60% of Americans say Congress should ONLY raise the nation’s debt ceiling if it cuts spending at the same time.” In an interview with ABC, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) said, “Americans want the government to cut spending.” Why are we not giving the American people what they want? It used to be the People’s House and the People’s voice in the halls of Congress but these days it seems the halls are ringing with overpriced K Street jargon.