I hold no membership in any political party. I think I’m classified as an unenrolled voter in Massachusetts, but the label, however, is not important. Generally, well overwhelmingly, really, I cast votes for Democrats in elections. Furthermore, when I vote in a primary (I’m allowed to do that in Massachusetts), I vote in the Democratic primary.
I voted for a Republican candidate years ago. She ran for state auditor. I couldn’t vote for the Democrat because she declared two primary residences on her tax return – and she was running for state auditor?
The GOP has moved so far to the right that I have a hard time finding any resonance with its policy positions as well as trusting GOP officeholders any higher than auditor. Though I think Gov. Baker is doing an OK job, I can’t shake the history of Gov. Romney’s tenure. Romney ran as a moderate Republican and then with an eye towards higher office veered off to the right. Remember, he couldn’t run away fast enough from the health insurance program in Massachusetts, which became the model for the Affordable Care Act?
Though not a Democrat, my sympathies strongly lie with them. In this hyperpolorized political environment, one would think I would be cheering on the Democrats because they’re not Republicans. But, I’m pretty tired of the Democrats, too.
About a year ago the Democratic leadership in Congress rolled out its vision for the party and the nation. Dubbed “A Better Deal,” it left me shaking my head in dismay. Better deal meant “what?” It was a slogan to repackage the stuff the party had been pushing for awhile. It kind of felt like the party was re-gifting used and worn out policies.
Several months ago I decided to send an e-mail to the Democratic National Committee through its website to express my thoughts as they entered the mid-term elections. Though policies such as universal health care, free college tuition, infrastructure investment, net neutrality, and affordable housing as only a few of the policies, they are all worthy. I wanted, however, to convey to the Committee my idea for an image to hold all of these disparate policies together. But, I couldn’t find any way to convey my idea to the party.
I got a call from the Democratic National Committee several months ago. We had a long conversation. He was a young man – he told me he was 24. He was passionate about the party and pleaded with me to donate. Our conversation was part public policy discussion and history lesson. He wasn’t familiar with the latter. His motivation was anti-GOP. I told him about my idea for the party’s message and my inability to convey it.
Today I read in the New York Times about the internal split among the Democrats. Should the party move further left? Should the party be more energetic in opposing Trump? Should the party be less beholden to corporate interests?
What seems to be missing is a succinct party identity. That identity could help to bring some of the disparate elements of the party together for a common cause at least for one or two election cycles.
I propose the Democrats unite around a theme connoting policies that will allow everyone in this country to fulfill his/her life’s aspirations. People should not be limited by government policies or institutional barriers. In other words:
- Affordable, universal health care for everyone (note this does not mean a single-payer system) so people can switch jobs, start their own businesses, and have reliable health care if they lose their jobs.
- Affordable housing. Available affordable housing in many communities does not meet the actual needs in the communities. Homeless people are not just people who live on our streets or in abandoned buildings. Homeless people include people who couch surf or live in their cars and still go to school or work.
- Food security. People need to eat. SNAP benefits are tight enough already (read about living on a SNAP budget). Nutrition is necessary for children to have proper physical development.
- Raise the federal minimum wage. Thankfully, local and state governments have already started this. However, shamefully the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour.
- Ongoing education. While free college tuition will enable recent college graduates to begin accumulating wealth rather than pay their debt, we have to make affordable education for all people possible as technology and global finance is changing the nature of jobs. People who may have been working for 20 years in a job that they lost due to technology or a job that went overseas should be able to be retrained for new work without having to incur terrible financial costs.
I can think of other areas and I’m guessing you can too. Adding them would make this list way too long. As for paying for this… raise taxes. If the GOP raises deficit spending as its objection, we only have to point to December’s tax package, which has done little to change the overall economy.
So, my slogan proposal? How about something similar to: “A foundation upon which everyone can build their life.” It will connect the various Democratic proposals into a single narrative. It appeals to conservatives who preach self-sufficiency.
My other suggestion for the Democrats is “get out of the way.” The old guard is too old. Their world view was formed in the crucible that was post-World War II. We need people whose world view was formed post Vietnam, even post 9/11. I noted this recently during the Congressional hearings with Mark Zuckerberg. The members of Congress on the panel were clueless with this technology. The recent win of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is another case in point. She beat Rep. Joseph Crowley. Her win makes clear the frustration many people have. The party needs to cultivate new leadership now for 2020 and 2024. The world has changed and the same strategies to address our issues must reflect our current context.
The Democrats cannot and should not campaign as the anti-Trump party. It can’t campaign by saying “We’re not the awful GOP.” The Democrats need a short narrative to hold all of its positions on various issues that aspires to more than “A Better Deal.” The Democrats need to acknowledge that they forgot to listen to the people they truly champion.