The Democratic Party is in huge trouble for two reasons, and this is very bad news. The first reason is that President Trump has occupied most of the politically valuable real estate. The second reason is that the Democratic response has been … well … less than effective. And that is very bad news because I don’t want a one-party state. Competition is invaluable for a democracy, I want someone to hold Trump’s feet to the fire, and meanwhile the Democratic Party is imploding at a rate of knots.
When I say that President Trump has occupied most of the politically valuable real estate, let me explain by example. It is generally agreed that the swing voters in the recent election were working white people in the Rust Belt, where globalization has destroyed jobs, factories, and towns. A number of counties which had gone for Obama in 2008 and 2012 went for Trump in 2016.
Now, suppose that you are a Democratic strategist. What can you offer that crucial bloc of voters?
The obvious thing to offer that voting bloc is jobs … but then President Trump has already been there and done that. During eight years of Obama, and for years before Obama, jobs were constantly being lost. NAFTA was a stupendous mistake, it has cost us tens of thousands of factories, particularly in the Rust Belt.
On the other hand, President-Elect Trump brought back thousands of jobs between election and inauguration, and many more since. At this point there is nothing that the Democrats can say about jobs that anyone will believe. The political real estate called “jobs” is completely occupied by President Trump.
How about social justice, like say childcare and paid family leave? Sorry, he covered that in his speech a couple nights ago.
What about that intangible but important thing called “pride in your heritage”? The Democrats have killed themselves there. Identity politics has a fatal flaw. It requires a villain. If some sub-section of society is doing poorly and you don’t ascribe that failure to the people themselves, you have to blame their failure on someone else.
And for decades in the Democratic party, that villain has been white men. If a board or a bureau or a lunch meeting does something wrong, we hear “Well of course! The Directors were nothing but white men! Why should white men decide things!” Heck, I remember that back in the sixties, according to … well … me, all evil in the US and the world was to be laid at the feet of “The Man”.
I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying that after decades of Democratic politicians slamming “The Man” and blaming white people for the sorry plight of immigrants, refugees, black people, students, earthquake faults, brown people, the economy, Sunni-Shiite violence, and every other thing wrong with the world, it’s hard to get your average white working man in the Rust Belt to believe a word Democrats say …
Then there has been the Democratic Party’s constant drumbeat against Christianity. I’m not a Christian myself, I’m a shamanist, but the endless attacks by the left on various Christian principles have alienated thousands of voters, including myself.
Take as an example the unlucky Christians who firmly state that it is against their most important religious beliefs to make flowers or bake cakes for a gay wedding. Do Democrats truly think that using the legal system to drive those poor Christians out of business and into poverty attracts voters to the ideals of the left? I’m a strong supporter of gay rights, I have lots of gay friends and family, but I know that’s just Democratic cruelty.
So how can the Democratic Party even begin to offer “pride in your heritage” to your average white working Christian family? All the Democrats have done for years is lecture them on some fancied “white privilege” and abuse and even sue them for what they believe.
What else might the Democrats offer? Well, there’s sexual equality … except for the fact that the Clinton Foundation paid women less than men, which tends to defang that argument. Plus, of course, the inconvenient fact that Trump has always surrounded himself with powerful women, including his daughter among many. If Kellyanne Conway had won the campaign for Hillary the Democrats would be putting her face on a postage stamp today … instead, they do everything they can to undermine, insult, and tear her down. Do the Democrats truly think that the people of the US don’t notice the sexual hypocrisy? So again, Trump has already occupied that real estate of empowering women.
Then there is the LBGTQ issue … but again, Trump is the only person to hold up the rainbow flag at a campaign event, and one of the twelve people on his initial transition team was a gay guy. Elton John played at Trump’s wedding, and Trump publicly congratulated Elton in 2005 when Elton got married. So the Democrats are outmaneuvered again. Trump has occupied the LGBTQ message real estate.
Heck, the President even indicated that he understands that a comprehensive immigration plan has to have a way for the Dreamers to obtain citizenship … there goes that issue for the Democrats. He just keeps picking them off.
Given that the President has already occupied so much of the valuable political real estate, I’m in mystery as to what the Democrats might have to offer that the President hasn’t already begun delivering, not talking about but delivering, to the American populace.
So let me toss that question to the assembled masses, whose combined mental horsepower far exceeds my own or any individual’s, this question: If you were the chief Democratic Party strategist … what would be your message?
It’s tough, because the President has already appropriated so many of the usual Democratic talking points as his own. And that brings me to the second reason that the Democratic Party is in trouble, their response to date.
The Democratic Party response to date is probably best encapsulated by the word “RESIST”. This is a horrible strategy based on being the anti-Trump. Hillary tried that and lost. If you want to win, you need to have a clear vision of where you are going, and how you plan to get there. What the Democrats have are ideals and resistance.
The Democratic Party strategists appear to be ignorant of the crucial difference between the items in the title of this post: ideals, goals, and plans. During the election they talked about ideals, while Trump talked about goals. This is a crucial difference.
FOR EXAMPLE. The ideal might be to bring jobs back to the Rust Belt. One of the many goals in that would be to repeal the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the first hundred days. The plan would be to end the TPP by means of writing an Executive Order.
Now, what are the characteristics of goals? Well, goals are yes/no, binary, in that at any instant they are either achieved or not. Goals happen in an instant. A goal might be to lose ten pounds by the wedding to fit into the tux. When the moment of the wedding arrives, either you did lose the weight or you didn’t. Note that to be a valid goal it MUST have a deadline. Otherwise, you can never decide if it is achieved or not.
In addition, goals are more likely to be achieved if they are positive rather than negative. A goal to achieve something is stronger than a goal to avoid or resist something.
Plans, on the other hand, are things that take time, like writing a document or cooking a meal. Plans are what are on “To-Do” lists, tasks, chores, activities. They are the time-consuming things we engage in to achieve our goals.
Finally, our ideals are what drive the selection of our goals, and we can understand them best by listing our goals. Ideals are things that cannot ever be actually achieved, but that we strive for. Equality. World peace. Those are ideals. They don’t have deadlines, they never actually occur.
So to review:
“Create and encourage jobs for the Rust Belt” is an ideal. We can’t say if it is ever accomplished. It is open-ended, no deadline, no threshold. It describes an overarching philosophy or direction.
“End the TPP in the first hundred days” is a goal. It occurs in an instant—one instant the TPP is not ended, and the next instant it is gone. It is a valid goal because it is clearly yes/no, occurs in an instant, and has a deadline.
Finally, “Write an Executive Order detailing the action repealing the TPP” is a plan. It takes time to write and check and review such an order. It can be thought of as a task.
Why is this important in politics? If you ask anyone today what was the platform that Trump ran on, you’ll get lots of answers. Among the things he said he’d achieve in his first hundred days were to end the TPP. Repeal and replace Obamacare. Start to build the southern Wall. Institute extreme vetting. Require government agencies repeal two regulations for every new one. Prevent government employees from lobbying for five years.
Note that each and every one of these is a valid goal. They are all yes/no, meaning that at any instant either they are done or not. When they occur, they will occur in an instant. All of them had a deadline, the first hundred days. They are specific goals.
Not only that, but Trump gave his word that he would achieve all of those goals. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t … but he’s already done some of them, others are started, and he’s giving it his best shot. And because they are valid goals with deadlines, we can tell if he has succeeded or failed.
Note that this is how builders have to operate. You don’t get Trump Tower built by stating and restating the ideals that are guiding the construction. You get it built by setting real goals with deadlines, and then instituting the plans and beginning the tasks to achieve those goals before the deadlines elapse.
As I pointed out above, everybody knew what Candidate Trump’s goals were if he were elected … but what were Candidate Clinton’s goals if she were elected? What was she planning to accomplish, and when would it be achieved? I cannot name a single goal of hers.
Instead, her candidacy was all about ideals. She was for sexual equality. She was also for racial equality, religious equality, gender equality, national equality, ethnic equality, class equality, and likely inter-planetary and trans-galactic equality … but none of those are goals. Those are all ideals. And she was for economic justice, and justice for the Dreamers, and for the downtrodden and for children and for everyone including oppressed gay Muslims in the Middle East. But again, those are not goals, they are ideals. Great ideals, to be sure, wonderful ideals … but without goals and plans, what are they worth? Talk is cheap.
In particular, ideals don’t win elections when the other candidate is putting their name and full faith behind actual goals. And you can be sure that this has not gone un-noticed on the Republican side.
The Democratic Party needs to sit down and have some serious discussions to figure out what they want to get done, and the deadlines before which they think they can accomplish those things. Unfortunately, to date those have mostly consisted of people screaming “WHAT DO WE WANT?” “JUSTICE!” “WHEN DO WE WANT IT” “NOW!” … not exactly the discussion of goals and timelines that is needed, even ignoring the fact that “justice” is an ideal and not a goal …
As the poster child of the current disarray in the Democratic Party let me offer up the Democratic response to this week’s Presidential address. In response they presented the speech of Ex-Governor of Kentucky Steve Brashear.
It was obviously filmed before the President’s speech, so it was necessarily vague. But that wasn’t the amazing part. Despite all of the Hollywood folks who are Democrats, this looked like it had been shot by first year film students. No, not even that good. Here you go.
Really? That’s the best they can do in 2017? When I first started watching it I though he was talking in front of a still picture. It was only when I saw one of the background people blink that I realized they were all alive.
Next, no people of color in the crowd? Yes, the Democrats have belatedly realized that in their haste to include others they were ignoring white people, but the crowd in that cafe was like an anti-racist joke …
Finally, the tone. We’d just come from a grand hall, with a speech full of passion and onions, cheers and tears, and we get … a hip-looking geriatricat sitting down and calmly talking in front of a bunch of people who look like they’re addicted to a mix of oxycontin and botox? That’s the best they have to present the Democratic message?
So. Knowing that Trump has taken the good real estate, and knowing the Democratic response to date has been a pathetic “RESIST”, what would I do if I ran the zoo? You know me, I’d figure out some plan. Plus as you may have noticed, I’m sometimes wrong but rarely uncertain … so if they put me in charge, this would be my advice for the Democratic Party.
• Bite the bullet and admit that the problem in 2016 was not poor communications, nor the FBI, the Russians, Wikileaks, the Alt-Right, the Ctrl-Left, or any third party. Throw out all of the explanations and start over with the clear understanding that as the Bard said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves …”.
• In addition to fielding a corrupt and unsympathetic candidate, it was the total absence of a message that cost Democrats the election. Everyone knew what Trump would do if elected, but nobody knew what Hillary would do if elected.
• Democrats cannot make a living out of “RESIST”. It is a dead-end in a maze with no cheese, nothing for the hungry masses. Forget entirely what the Democratic party is AGAINST, and figure out what the party is FOR.
• Remember that the important part is not the ideals. Look, everybody these days is in favor of equality of all kinds, sexual and racial and opportunity and educational and planetary and galactic equality. Everyone wants liberty and justice for all, who doesn’t? The question is not what the Democratic ideals are. The question is what the Democratic goals are, how will they be achieved, and how are they better than Trump’s goals?
• Tell the Hollywood stars to stand down. Yes, they have a magnificent microphone to reach the masses … but the optics are horrible. Leonardo DiCaprio taking a personal jet 7,500 miles to lecture us about cutting our carbon footprints is LOSING Democratic voters, not gaining them. And most folks are forced to laugh when Meryl Streep stands up at a glittering award orgy of Hollywood self-congratulation, dressed in thousands of dollars of clothing and dripping with jewels, and to her fellow millionaires in the golden ballroom who like her live in mansions with swimming pools and heliports and have cars with drivers she proudly declaims:
All of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now.
I’m sure all of us in this room, really, feel sorry for poor oppressed Meryl and those vilified Hollywood stars. I know I do … not. Democrats need to tell Hollywood to go back to singing, dancing, and acting.
• Speak out loudly, often, and strongly, against the denial and the drowning out of the voices of the opposition. Democrats have a right to go to town hall meetings. They do NOT have the right to stop people from speaking. Democrats have the right to speak. They do NOT have a right to intimidate people into silence through violence. They do NOT have the right to drown out opposition responses with shouting and boos. Those are clear denials of people’s First Amendment rights, and should be denounced strongly by the Democratic party. The failure of Hillary and Obama to speak out against the violence done in their names after the election cost the party thousands of votes. Democrats are vilifying Trump for not decrying anti-Semitism, but I have not heard one Democratic leader speak out against the street violence and rioting of their own supporters. If the Democratic Party is to regain credibility, that silence has to stop. The Party leaders need to speak out against violence, intimidation and silencing wherever it occurs, particularly at town-hall meetings.
• Stop telling everyone what various Democrats are afraid is going to happen. People do not follow fearful, frightened leaders. I know that some of my gay friends are afraid of what Trump might do. OK, but that fear is groundless and baseless. Yes, many people are frightened these days. Listening to the news, at times it seems like the entire Democratic base is cowering in terror under their beds afraid of some vague unspecified horror … does anyone think that this improves the image of the Democratic Party? Going on and on about groundless inchoate terror does not make people want to join you in Fearville …
• As the then-President Obama told everyone during the run-up to the 2016 election, it was a referendum on his policies. He said “My name may not be on the ballot, but our agenda for moving forward is”, and also “I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them”. And since Hillary had few policy differences with Obama, this was certainly true. So the Democrats need to tattoo this on the inside of their foreheads:
OBAMA’S POLICIES LOST THE REFERENDUM
Not only that, but nationwide during Obama’s presidency, the Democrats lost 1,000 legislative seats, one of the fastest drops in party popularity in US political history. As a result the Democrats are weaker now politically than at any time since 1920!! President Obama had his personal magic, to be sure, he could sell himself … but as he personally was going up, the Democratic Party was cratering.
Now, I see today that Citizen Obama is moving Comrade Valerie Jarrett, his longtime political consultant, into his house in Washington. It appears the Democratic Party doesn’t get it, and obviously he doesn’t get it either, but the Obama/Clinton policies LOST the referendum, and Obama and Clinton are now poison to the party! The more that Obama is involved, the more the Clintons stick their oar in, the poorer the chances are that the party will ever rise again. Citizen Obama is a lightning rod for opposition to the Democrats, and Hillary is even worse. They lost, they lost badly, and to make matters worse, they are greatly hated by the opposition. Not only that but neither one has come to grips with WHY they lost, it’s still all about Russians and Comey to this day. Stop listening to their bad advice, stop following their wrong lead, take their names out of the equation. They have cost the party over a thousand seats, the House, the Senate, and the Presidency … after that, why would anyone pay attention to anything that they say? They are proven losers, and the Democratic Party desperately needs winners at this time in history.
• Fire the Democratic media advisers. The official Democratic response of Steve Beshear’s speech was a pathetic joke. Here’s what I would have done, and I’m far from being a media adviser. Hire a town hall. Fill it with both democrats and republicans split half and half just like the hall the President spoke in. Have them watch the President’s speech on the big screen. THEN, once the President is done have the most fiery, quickest thinking up-and-coming Democrat lined up to speak. Beforehand write a number of speech variations based on what the President might say, with different tones and styles. Have that person stand up and deliver an impassioned account of the specific things wrong with what the President said, and see if you can get the Republicans to stand up and applaud.
Wouldn’t you rather watch that than the official Democratic response featuring the non-walking dead?
• Finally, and perhaps most important, get some new leaders. The election as the Democratic National Committee Chair of Tom Perez, the creature of the Obama/Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, is bad news for Democrats and great news for Republican. Obama and Clinton represent the worst of yesterday’s Democrats. The Party needs to find new, fresh faces. Hey, the door is open for rich business men and women to run now. There are some strong photogenic Democratic business leaders out there, Mark Cuban comes to mind. Democrats desperately need to find a leader that knows how to set goals and translate those goals into reality. That is the man or woman who people will follow. They will not follow someone saying “We’re terrified, the sky is falling, RESIST EVERYTHING” … they will follow someone who points to a better world and provides a clear vision of how to get to that promised land.
Anyhow … that’s what I’d do if I ran the Democratic zoo. I know it is long, but my problem is that I can’t see my friends driving a bus off the edge of a cliff without doing my level best to stop the impending crash, so I included the details … and as I’ve said more than once, a strong Democratic party is not an option, it is a requirement for a strong body politic.
Regards to all,
PS—When you comment please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE DISCUSSING so that we can all understand just what the heck you are on about. Thanks.