A few days ago I published a piece on Facebook suggesting some ways in which the Democratic Party could repair its image and start winning elections. Some people took issue with that wondering why I was criticizing my own party. One said, “You sound like a Republican.” Hardly, I’m offering suggestions for us to win but it is tough love and no political party wants to hear that they have caused their own problems.
Self-assessment or criticism is difficult, no one wants to look in a mirror at their warts, scars, bruises and bumps. You can wear a mask but the imperfections are still there. If all we do is praise ourselves and blame the Republicans for our failures, we are doing exactly what Donald Trump does which is never accepting responsibility and always finding someone to blame for his failures. I’d say he is not a very good role model. The bottom line is that we lose elections because we are not trusted. So, it is time to face it and fix it. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Maybe I’m missing something, but I see no signs of the Democratic Party doing anything different than they did in 2016. If that’s true, they will be throwing away the greatest opportunity to sweep two branches of government in modern political history.
The party leadership makes a lot of speeches, but seems to be shooting at clouds. They run in circles making a whole lot of noise, spend huge sums of money and still can’t seem to win. We’ve had over five months to develop an approach to defeating the most anti-people administration since the civil war yet we have lost four special elections in a row. Count ‘em. 4. People are actually voting for representation that will harm them. If they prefer that to the help the Democrats offer, then the Democratic Party has a very serious “Trust” issue to deal with that isn’t being addressed.
Some will say, “But we offer better healthcare, more favorable taxation, equality, economic growth and unequaled education opportunities, what more can we do?” Good question. But words alone are worthless. The electorate seems convinced that Democrats send conflicting messages. We say one thing and then take a completely opposite action. Or, we say one thing, and do another. Yes, I’ll provide examples.
A recent Washington Post-ABC News survey found that a majority of the public thinks the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans. In other words, they don’t “Trust” the Democrats to do the right thing. Trust, is a very big issue. Let’s examine it.
It’s really hard to trust someone who says, “We’ve got to do everything possible to overturn Citizens United” and then they take huge campaign contributions from the big money interests that “Citizens” allows. The actions betray the promises. But it goes beyond that. If we think Wall Street needs more regulation and that big banks should be broken up, why are we taking their money for speeches, their campaign contributions and accepting their endorsements? “But wait,” as the commercial says, “there’s more.” If we oppose the manipulative and underhanded actions taken by some health insurers and bankers, then we should not accept seats on their boards of directors. And, finally, we can’t criticize the Republicans for their lack of women in leadership positions and then have two men (Perez and Ellison) as the most visible party leaders.
And, that’s just a short list to make the point that double standards erode and finally destroy trust and therefore public confidence. When the public sees one double standard after another, credibility and trust begin to vanish which takes us right back to losing four special elections in a row in the last five months. We talk a good game, but have little credibility because our actions contradict our promises.
Give them credit, the Republicans make no bones about taking money from corporations and, among other things, they are willing to allow more air pollution if doing so will create jobs. Those may not be good long-term practices but at least they are consistent. That’s not to say they don’t have their own problems, but if the four special elections are any indication, they have a greater degree of trust than does the Democratic Party.
Here’s the opportunity we are setting ourselves up to miss, unless we make major changes right now. Donald Trump and his administration and followers should be easy to unseat. Their malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance and incompetence along with plans to deprive the middle class of basic rights and services are in the headlines every day. The President himself has offended several of our best allies while supporting Vladimir Putin the dictator of age old enemy Russia. Trump daily engages in bullying, making and breaking promises, lying about everything from the size of his inauguration crowd to claiming his predecessor illegally spied on him and a whole lot more. He bullies, offends, diminishes health care for everyone while telling them it will be better and reduces services and care for the disabled, the elderly and children. He is pounding out Executive Orders at a frantic rate that remove many of the protective regulations that make sure we have clean air and water, safe working conditions and food that won’t make you sick. And — if you watch the Sean Spicer news briefings you know that his staff has no idea how to respond to most questions because the President keeps changing his story.
Most professional campaigners would say, “This guy’s a sitting duck.” Unfortunately, he’s not because Democrats are trusted even less. With all of that ammunition, we have still lost four special elections in a row. What’s wrong with this picture?
How can you have a congress that supports every ill-conceived idea the President tweets or says and still be unable to win elections. That some of the elections were close makes no difference. Close has no vote. Close can’t oppose the GOP health care fiasco. Close cannot vote against the Trump Tax plan. Close is worthless. When losing elections by a narrow margin becomes a sign of hope, then we have become losers. Losing is not admirable, it is a sign of poor planning and execution. More importantly it means the Democratic Party simply isn’t connecting with voters.
Some, however few, suggest that voters must bear some responsibility. Too many people don’t study the issues or just don’t vote. Maybe that’s because no one motivates them to do so. No one has a plan that would affect them in a beneficial manner great enough to cause them to go out in the cold or rain to cast a ballot. Perhaps the idea has some merit– maybe we need a massive voter education program so people understand how important their vote is.
Maybe — but education programs take a long time and we need more immediate results. That means the Democratic Party must shoulder the responsibility to communicate by words and actions, in a manner that exudes honor, compassion, trustworthiness and dependability. If voters know that the Democratic Party can be trusted, that it is a party of integrity, honesty and of a genuine concern for people — they just might get up and vote for our candidates. That said, we must always recognize that there is a certain segment of society that just won’t vote, no matter what, and that is their right.
My suggestions are not new. Many are similar to those articulated so well by Bernie Sanders, but no one listened to him either. While we can learn a great deal from the mistakes of the past we should also be seeking new solutions, new approaches, new blood, new energy and new ideas.
Five months of Donald Trump’s outrageously clownish and incompetent presidency and Democrats have lost four special elections. If that isn’t a signal that we’re doing something wrong what is? I for one refuse to accept the excuse that “Those are red states anyway.” They weren’t always red, they were blue once and got stolen from us. I cannot accept the idea that second place is a good thing, especially in the game of politics where so many lives are at risk — at real risk. We can’t sit back and say, “Well we lost four but not by much.” That’s a loser’s mentality. When we lose we should be upset and vow to work harder and change whatever we have to in order to gain victory. Hope is a poor substitute for determination. It suggests a picture of a party of thumb twiddlers hoping divine providence will step in and save the day. Winning takes innovation, guts and determination. If you have those qualities we need you on the front lines.
And from where I sit, that’s the truth