We’re still not fully “getting it” as Democrats. As we revel and rejoice – and even bond over shared fears – in the incompetence and embarrassment that is Donald Trump, we are in my view forgetting that resistance alone won’t build back our party and attract new voters. In fact, we may even lose a few million more if we are perceived as even more obstinate obstructionists than the Republicans were with President Obama. As we dream of a long-shot Impeachment, we forget that even if Trump is gone, the Republicans will still control all 3 branches of government. “Yeah,” you say, “But it’s Trump! He’s crazy and dangerous.” Well, almost 40% of the country doesn’t agree. And they thought the man that you and I know as a total class act, and possibly the “favorite president of our lifetimes,” was a Kenyan Muslim, and a total affront to America. To them, we are at best merely obstructionists, at their petty worst poor loser cry-babies. However justified we are to resist an authoritarian regime and a “Republican’t” Party that doesn’t seem to care very much about, oh, you know … people, the planet, or social progress of any kind, we still need a message that can #RECRUIT beyond merely successful #RESISTANCE.
We seem to be judging current progressive progress by pointing to impressive crowd sizes at women’s marches, and science and climate change marches, in big cities like L.A., New York, and Washington, D.C. But we must remember it’s the size of those crowds in Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, Pittsburgh, and Dayton that matter more. Can you honestly say you know of 2-3 things the Democratic Party is doing to “win back” the steady rustbelt support of the last 25 years that disappeared in an instant in 2016? (no really – if you do, tell me in “Comments”) The “Unity Tour” taken by new Party Chair Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders was a failure. Why? Well, in part it didn’t serve its purpose because the Bernie hardliners still sore from the 2016 Primary didn’t think he should be hanging out with Perez, and the rest of the Party making the point that if Bernie Sanders wants to help the Democratic Party, he should first consider JOINING IT. So, while we are all united as progressives AGAINST Trump, we aren’t even a unified Party. This past weekend’s California Democratic Party convention and the tense election for a new State Party Chairperson is further proof of this.
Overall, the Democratic Party also has an image problem, united or not. An April 5-11 Pew Research poll shows that while Democrats are making inroads against Republicans on some key issues, the Democratic Party’s favorability rating has fallen six points since January, from 51 to only 45 percent favorability. What’s more, the public still trusts the Republican Party more on key issues including combating terrorism, trade, taxes, THE ECONOMY, and even gun policy. And while to some it may be heartening to see that the same poll shows that the Democratic Party now has a 13 percentage point edge on Foreign Policy… I know darn well that voters don’t cast their votes based on foreign policy. They decide on the economic issues for which the Republicans are polling higher. After all, it is ALWAYS “the Economy, stupid.”
Yes, we must resist. Donald Trump is probably the least informed person ever to occupy the oval office (though Zachary Taylor probably comes close). He is bar far the most dangerous. We as Democrats certainly have a duty to expose his financial malfeasance and several potentially treasonous acts. It would be a dereliction of duty NOT to be watchdogs and serve as the resistance in this regard. However, what we’re still missing is a coordinated, visible, media savvy effort to explain to the American people A) What our policy proposals are, and B) Why our policy proposals are better for middle-class Americans than those of Trump and the Repubulican’ts.
So friends, as you take to Facebook to vent about Jared Kushner, I’m going to be more vigilant in the months ahead about asking you, “What does that have to do with winning Wisconsin?” When you cry foul over the latest right-wing move by Attorney General Jeff(erson Beauragard) Sessions (III), I’m going to ask you, “What kind of jobs plan are the Democrats presenting to the folks in Iowa?” When we make fun of Steve Bannon and his evil puppet strings, I’m going to laugh along with you, and then ask, “Does joking about Bannon do much for the Proctor & Gamble employees outside of Cincinnati we need voting for us?!” We must communicate a stronger message, and organize like we’ve ever organized before.
And we need candidates! Our bench is weak, and we need to admit that out loud. The Biden-Bernie-Warren trifecta will all be in their 70s by 2020 (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and it is unclear who among the all too few up-and comers in the Party have the stuff to make for a great nominee, let alone a great president. It’s times like this we should be asking ourselves why we have fewer than 20 Democratic governors.
Democrats and left-leaning independents, I by all means call on you to #RESIST. I have joined you in doing so. But I will also remind you that we must also organize and deliver an economic message that resonates with far more Americans that live in states that don’t touch an ocean. And so far, I’m not hearing what that is. Are you?