Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How Democrats can come back – in three simple steps

Embrace leftist economics. Endorse election reforms. And create a message of unity.

We’re are less than ten days away from President-elect Donald Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States. His tenure, if it’s anything remotely like how he ran his campaign, will be riddled with controversies and disastrous policy initiatives.

Democrats will be on the defense against Trump and the GOP. But their defense cannot become a campaign of “no, no, no” like the Republicans did during President Barack Obama’s time in office. That method worked in some places, to be sure, but it won’t energize everyday Americans to support our causes. If we really want to take the wind out of Trump’s sails, and derail what little political capital he does have, we need to take a more proactive approach.

Here’s how Democrats can come back and win – against Trump’s policies, and electorally in the years ahead.

Embrace leftist economic policies. Bernie Sanders did remarkably well with constituencies across the 50 states against his Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton. Though she did win in the end, Sanders’s support was due in large part to his leftist agenda, including creating a single-payer form of health care as well as a proposal to guarantee secondary education options for every student willing to put in the hard work to get accepted into colleges and universities.

Leftist economic policies are embraced by a vast majority of Americans. Most support a government-sponsored healthcare plan, most back raising taxes on the richest of Americans, most support raising the minimum wage and most want Social Security to remain in place. Even Donald Trump’s supporters responded positively to the candidate when he said we need to reform our trade deals, an issue that makes him sound more like Bernie Sanders than Ronald Reagan.

Americans back the economic proposals that Democrats are proposing. And the party shouldn’t back away because of the results of this election – if anything, they should double down.

Present agreeable electoral reforms to the people. We desperately need election reform in this country. Whether it’s gerrymandered districts or the fact that Americans have to strategically vote for someone they don’t even like, our elections are messed up and in dire need of repair.

One of the ways that Democrats can legitimize themselves in the eyes of voters who are doubtful of their policies is to embrace election reforms. This is especially true if the reforms in question won’t necessarily benefit the Democratic Party – an idea like redistricting reform, for example, takes the process of drawing electoral maps out of the hands of political leaders and into the hands of nonpartisan officials. Democrats would do well to endorse this idea, even if doing so means some of their “safe” districts become competitive, because independent voters and the Democratic base will see that Democrats are truthful when they say they are working for the people’s, not the party’s, interests.

Most Americans also agree that money in politics is a serious problem. Democrats need to talk to constituents about finance reform in our elections, but they also need to “walk-the-walk.” They need to reject Super PACs and “endorsements” from corporations. This is perhaps a hard step to take – but it is one that can be very effective, if utilized correctly. Russ Feingold employed such a strategy successfully early in his career, and the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders was also a grassroots effort that was highly successful without the aid of money from corporate interests.

Finally, Democrats need to back a plan to do away with the Electoral College. This is, again, an issue that most Americans support. Republicans will counter that Democrats only want to get rid of the Electoral College because they lost the last election – but Democrats have consistently supported the idea to end the archaic system of choosing our president in a non-democratic way, and so have most Americans. In actuality, it is Republicans who have switched their views of the Electoral College, only after winning the presidency in 2016 without the popular vote. In 2012, 54 percent of GOP-leaning voters supported ending the Electoral College. After Trump’s win, that number dropped to 19 percent.

On the Electoral College, Democrats (and most Americans) have been consistent in their thinking that the president ought to be selected by the people themselves. Only the Republicans have switched their opinions on the matter. Pushing for a change would be something Democrats would be smart to do.

Create a message of a United States, not Divisive States. Democrats naturally embrace the diversity of our nation. And they shouldn’t stop now.

Efforts to reach out to white voters shouldn’t be derailed, but support for communities that still face real societal hardships needs to be continued. African Americans, Latinos, disabled Americans, the LGBTQA+ community and more need to know: we hear your voices, and we’re going to help.

The message that Democrats need to broadcast is that we’re a party for ALL Americans. To demonstrate this, Democrats need to have conversations with both people who don’t support them as well as people who need the most support of all.

We shouldn’t be fearful of talking with our opponents, or of having conversations with voters in traditionally conservative areas. Doing so is productive in two ways. First, it ensures that real discussions will take place. Your opponent is less likely to engage in hateful commentary if they’re speaking to you face-to-face. And if they’re less likely to do that, then they’re more likely to listen. It won’t eradicate partisanship and there won’t be a kumbaya moment between Democrats and Republicans – but it will make debate more approachable and successful in the long run.

Secondly, having discussions with your opponents paints you in a positive light to the people. When Barack Obama spoke to Republicans at their leadership conference in 2010, he went straight into the lion’s den. But his doing so was seen as an attempt to bridge the divide. Voters didn’t forget two years later when they elected him to a second term in office.

Bernie Sanders also entered unfamiliar territory when he spoke to Liberty University during his campaign for president. He didn’t have to go into this traditionally conservative area, but doing so made him more appealing to Americans who wanted a presidential candidate that would attempt to work with both sides rather than just his or her own.

Conversations with our opponents will help Democrats look engaging with all Americans. Having public conversations with disadvantaged groups will help those individuals see that we’re the party of unity as well. Whether we’re talking about expanding rights for the LGBTQA+ community or ensuring that law enforcement remove elements of racial bias, Democrats need to make sure that the disenfranchised groups in American society are being heard. Much more than that, Democrats need to promise to be their voices in the statehouses across the country, as well as in Washington D.C.

Finally, Democrats need to point out the Republican Party’s stubbornness to be listeners and promoters of an equal society. This will be simple if the Democrats follow the steps above – all they will need to do is ask Republican leaders why they won’t speak to gay and lesbian organizations, or why they won’t work for equal pay for women, or why they won’t recognize biases in America when they exist. America will wake up to their conservative social motivations when they’re exposed, and for the most part they will reject them.

The future doesn’t have to be bleak. Democrats have mourned the past couple of months since the election, and doing so is healthy for the mind. But now is not the time to mourn – now, Democrats must act, taking on Trump and the GOP directly while also promoting themselves to the people across the nation.

As time goes on, Democrats need to point out the hypocrisies and ill-advised decisions that Republicans will make over Trump’s first term in office. But they also need to be active, not passive, lawmakers themselves.

Democrats need to promote an American society that will appeal to most Americans. There will always be those that will oppose their efforts – this period of partisanship won’t end overnight. But promotion of a just, equal and fair society is a concept that Americans can stand behind. They won’t get that from Trump and Republicans. Democrats need to be seen as not just a “better option,” but an option that is enthusiastically supported.

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