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What Should The Democratic Party’s Message Be?

by Lynn B. Johnson (Principles: Power - use it or lose it) - 5 month ago

“Vote For Us – We’re Not Trump” might win an election cycle or two but if Democrats want to become the majority party, they need to come up with something much better.

I’m going to start by objecting to the question. The nature of the Democratic Party is such that they will never agree on a cohesive message.  While Republican ideology lends itself to the development of a national agenda, Democrats typically will tailor their message to the needs of their constituent.  The fact that Democrats in Congress have been united in 2017 against the Republican / Trump agenda is a stunning declaration of just how unpopular that agenda is with the American people.

While it will certainly be tempting for Democrats to run on a message of “vote for us - we’re not Trump,” I’m going to suggest they do more than that.  With a historically unpopular President and Congress pushing a historically unpopular agenda, Democrats have the opportunity to win over a generation and control the government for an extended period of time. To do that, they need to emphasize what is good about the party and root out what is bad. 

To begin with the national party needs to stop creating litmus tests around controversial issues like abortion, universal health care, raising the minimum wage, gun control and the use of fossil fuels. Candidates need to have flexibility on these issues. The national party should instead  focus on broad principles upon which most of America can agree. Some examples:     

EDUCATION AND HEALTH CARE:  All citizens are entitled to receive the best education and health care that our resources permit. For this purpose, education must include job training throughout a person’s working career. Who could be against this?

SAFETY: We must strive to find the right balance between keeping our citizens safe while protecting their rights and not harming the economy.  This short sentence includes everything from criminal justice to gun laws to protecting the environment.

DISCRIMINATION:  Government must strive to insure that all citizens are treated equally under the law and by employers. Gay and Transgender rights are covered by this statement without getting into the weeds of bathroom laws.

RELIGION: Everyone has the right to practice the religion of their choice provided that it doesn’t adversely impact the rights or safety of others. This can be interpreted as pro-choice. It can also be interpreted as being against the practice of violent Radical Islam.

INCLUSION: This one is really important. Democrats have a mantra in which they promote the rights of every minority. As such, they are perceived as excluding people who are not in any of the specified minorities. Why not simply state that a government controlled by Democrats will strive to ensure that EVERYONE has an equal opportunity to succeed. Democrats must also vehemently call out anyone within their own ranks who demonizes others merely because they disagree on policy. Specifically, it needs to be understood that it is totally unacceptable to refer to Republicans as being any or all of the standard epithets of ignorant, greedy, selfish, misogynist, homophobic or racist. 

Obviously, this listing of principles provides for a wide range of policy solutions. That’s fine. Democrats should be in favor of holding wide ranging discussion to find the best consensus solutions to our problems. However, what I like about these principles is that it’s hard to disagree with any of them – regardless of whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or an independent.

What am I missing? 

Comments and Responses (7)

Reasoning used for ARGUMENTS presented
By  Facebook Commenter - 5 month ago
I think that Lynn B. Johnson is too vague and mushy in the positions set forth. Who can be against life-time job training? If no one opposes it, why don't we have it and why is it an issue? Dems have to stand for something. I would prefer Dems embrace feminism, that they devote themselves to empowering systemically disempowered people and groups. But I think that the test of systemic disempowerment should be taken seriously: it should not be expanded so broadly as to be based on superficial aspects of individual preference or experience. Nor should systemic disempowerment be so widely drawn as to include people at a temporary disadvantage. Dems should continue to push for measures like expanding the supply of reasonably priced rental housing, jobs for youth and for people of color, gender pay equality, environmental protection, clean energy. Dems have been successful when they have gone past platitudes and offered actual proposals to provide the things I mentioned above.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Thank you for the clearly stated, non-mushy comment. Personally, I am in favor of everything you are suggesting. I have to disagree with you, however, on your statement that Dems have been successful when they've gone past platitudes. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both got into office on a platform of "change" while generally avoiding specifics on what that change would be. Hillary Clinton tried to hammer home how she would empower people who have been systematically disempowered and 80% of the people who she didn't put on that list voted against her. If the Democrats are again to become a national party and be competitive in red states, their candidates need to have the flexibility to stress some issues over others and to not be required to pass litmus tests on contentious issues like choice, LGBT rights, gun control or minimum wage. If Democrats are perceived as being inflexible and dogmatic, then they will continue to lose in too many places.
General Comments
By  Facebook Commenter - 5 month ago
Why is there bipartisan "warfare"? Why don't elected officials represent the greater good for all the People? We the People allegedy vote for representative gov't, yet it's not legislating for the majority of people...we're taxed and thwarted in pursuit of life, liberty, happiness to bolster the ruling class representing big $$$ multinationals, well-funded PACS...meanwhile, devisiveness is being encouraged, keeps the People from uniting and replacing the despotic govt...we have the constitutional right, as well as natural law, to empower us People to oust this non-representation!(TL)
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is interesting but not directly relevant. (It might be a good topic for a new discussion)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : I think the Democrats would have a very difficult time with a platform calling for "the People" to rise up against the "ruling class." This is pretty much exactly what Lenin said in Russia and Mao said in China. The slogan is too closely related to Communism and with Democrats already being accused of being Socialists, they probably don't want to add any fuel to that fire. However, overall, I think you are on the right track as the Democratic Party certainly wants to be associated with being the party that represents the goals of low and middle class people (small p) against the multinationals and SuperPACS funding by the wealthiest people in the country (and maybe outside the country.) This can best be done by having a Democratic Party committed to representing their own constituents rather than promoting a one-size-fits-all national agenda.
INFORMATION used
By  Facebook Commenter - 5 month ago
The message should be yes,we know you exist middle class AMERICANS, yes ,we know you are citizens and tax payers, generations of your families invested in the people's government. The democrats message will not be , HEY YOU CAN GET SNAP, it will be jobs,lower taxes,affordable health care, and less subsidies to cronies investments.Resist is not a form of government ,it is encouraging radical people on both sides to street fight. If the government is no longer active in the congressional realm, does this mean taxpayers can resist paying taxes because our government is no longer a working entity. If resisting is the only message ,I suggest Republicans and Democrats start working on commission only,if you all have production,you will receive compensation , if not ,no salary! (CC)
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : In our Democracy, the middle class, being the largest voting bloc, gets to decide who should be in charge. You are 100% correct that the Democrats need to re-focus a positive message on the hard working people in the middle class. I agree that "resistance" alone is not a message. It can be interpreted as Democrats saying to the middle class "we know that you don't like our policies but we're betting that you hate the policies of Trump and the Republicans even more." That message is not going to motivate enough people. On the other hand, as you indicate, a message of affordable health care, promoting job growth, lower taxes for the middle class, and running an ethical government would be a message that could resonate.
Reasoning used for ARGUMENTS presented
By  Facebook Commenter - 5 month ago
Working together for a BALANCED future! Meaning, a balanced budget, reducing spending while protecting safty net programs. Reducing waste in government, and balancing business and enviromental needs using smart solutions. We need to create a better outcome because we are all in this together! (KM)
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : I would like to see a Democratic Party admitting that they don't have all the solutions but they will work to combine the best ideas from all sides to accomplish the goals you have outlined. Provide both a Safety Net and opportunities for success to those who are unfortunate, create real wage growth for working Americans, and balance the needs of today with the needs of the future in all areas - environment, Social Security, Medicare, and infrastructure. This is what most Americans want. If the Democrats won't propose this solution, I hope a third party will come along which does.
Reasoning used for ARGUMENTS presented
By  Facebook Commenter - 5 month ago
I believe the Dems focus should be a return to "gov OF the people, by the people & FOR the people"...ALL not the 1% of the people. Our gov that is no longer run by the lobby, mega rich, dark money & spec interest groups. Our elected must swear to not being bought. Our election procedures need changing...spending billions to elect someone lends to politicians being bought. We need radical election law changes. The only way the pathetic lack of action by Congress can be changed is to change WHO controls our elected. (LG)
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : This is an absolutely essential message and I agree 100% that the national Democrat party should adopt it. It fits my criteria of being something upon which nearly all Americans can agree. Elections should better reflect the will of the people and politicians should not be bought by wealthy donors. I would add that we need better civics training in our schools so that voters are better informed and can differentiate between facts and spin. Thank you for the suggestion.
Reasoning used for ARGUMENTS presented
By  Facebook Commenter - 5 month ago
The message doesn’t need to change. Democrats need to be seen to MEAN what they say. (BJS)
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : This is a difficult hurdle to overcome considering the utter lack of respect that currently exists for politicians. However, perhaps this is why women candidates were so successful in the 2017 elections. Its possible that voters, subconsciously or otherwise, generally believe women to be more honest than men.
General Comments
By  Facebook Commenter - 5 month ago
“The People’s Party” and specifics on what used to be called a platform and the planks in it. Fuzzy promises are no good, we don’t put any stock in them. Recognizing that the GOP is not going to make it easy, tell us what exactly you will do to get things done.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Unfortunately when the Democrats get too specific about what they want to get done, it starts to sound like a laundry list of new government programs and regulations. Republicans have an easy time attacking Democrats as socialists who want the government to take over every aspect of people's lives. To reiterate, I am in favor of local Democratic candidates making specific promises to their own constituents. We have a right to know how our own representatives are going to vote on issues which affect us. What I am opposed to are the litmus tests that all Democrats must pass. An obvious example is the litmus test on abortion. The fact that all Democrats must be pro-choice automatically makes it impossible for a Democrat to be elected in a significant portion of the country. If Democrats are to have the power to get things done, they must expand their base and these litmus tests prevent that from happening.