On last Sunday’s Meet The Press, Chuck Todd interviewed Ohio’s republican Governor John Kasich, during which Kasich made the following statement:
“The problem with the Democrats––I can’t figure out what they’re for. I mean, they have a golden opportunity, right, to be able to come in and win elections, but they can’t figure out anything other than the fact that they don’t like Donald Trump. I mean, they better figure out what they are. What’s happened to the Democratic party? It’s almost lost its soul and it better get its act together if they want to compete.”
My initial reaction, predictably, was to bristle. Of course we know what we stand for! We stand for environmental protections, affordable healthcare for all, equal rights and opportunity for all, an end to racism, stricter gun regulations, etc. But, once I was done with my internal tirade and mental foot-stomping, I realized that … he is right. He is wrong in saying that we do not know what we stand for other than hating Donald Trump. But he is right about everything else. The Democratic Party has done very little in the last seven months to put together a platform and even less to build strategies for successful mid-term elections next year. Kasich is right that this is a golden opportunity, with the majority of the country disgusted by the policies of Donald Trump and with a Congress that continues to lick his boots and ask “how high?” when told to jump.
One of the biggest challenges next year, I believe, will be inspiring voters to go to the polls. If we are relying only on ‘anything but Trump’ to encourage voters to vote for democratic candidates in 2018, we are doomed. It did not work last year and it will not work next year either. According to a recent Gallup survey, the current percentages of registered voters by party in the U.S. are …
Meaning …. It will require some serious motivation to excite those 41% of independents enough to get them to the polls and convince them to vote for a democratic candidate.
We have all, myself included, been so focused on convincing Trump supporters to ‘see the light’, to abandon their love of Trump, that we have ignored the rest. Only about 36% support Trump, and it is apparent that short of a dramatic event that affects them on a personal level, they are not likely to back down. We can no longer waste valuable resources on the 36% to the exclusion of all others, for those resources are needed to promote strong, viable candidates in the House and Senate elections next year.
Political analyst Steve Phillips wrote a relevant article for the New York Times last month that I encourage you to read. A few of his key points:
“The Democratic Party is at risk of repeating the billion-dollar blunder that helped create its devastating losses of 2016. With its obsessive focus on wooing voters who supported Donald Trump, it is neglecting the cornerstone of its coalition and failing to take the steps necessary to win back the House of Representatives and state houses in 2018.
In spring 2016, when the progressive independent expenditure groups first outlined their plans for $200 million in spending, they did not allocate any money at all for mobilizing black voters (some money was slotted for radio and digital advertising aimed at blacks, but none for hiring human beings to get out the vote).
Predictably, African-American turnout plummeted. According to new census data, 59.6 percent of eligible black voters cast ballots last year, down from the 66 percent who voted in 2012.
The Democratic Party’s fixation on pursuing those who voted for Mr. Trump is a fool’s errand because it’s trying to fix the wrong problem.”
In June, Bernie Sanders also wrote an OpEd for the New York Times, titled How Democrats Can Stop Losing Elections. This piece definitely warrants a closer look. The first paragraph is an eye-opener:
“In 2016, the Democratic Party lost the presidency to possibly the least popular candidate in American history. In recent years, Democrats have also lost the Senate and House to right-wing Republicans whose extremist agenda is far removed from where most Americans are politically. Republicans now control almost two-thirds of governor’s offices and have gained about 1,000 seats in state legislatures in the past nine years. In 24 states, Democrats have almost no political influence at all.” [emphasis added]
Mid-term elections typically do not generate the same level of voter enthusiasm that presidential elections do. According to Sanders, “We already have among the lowest voter turnout of any major country on earth. Democrats will not win if the 2018 midterm election turnout resembles the unbelievably low 36.7 percent of eligible voters who cast ballots in 2014.”
Granted, it is early days yet, with the 2018 mid-term elections just over 14 months away. But in this day of nearly endless campaigns, it is not too early to start igniting the fires of enthusiasm. While we cannot set aside our arguments against the Trumpian regime currently in office, and we must continue to speak out against the policies that go against what we believe is right and just, we must also make clear not only what we don’t want, but what we DO stand for, as well. And we must somehow motivate and inspire every eligible voter to realize that their vote DOES count, that they CAN make a difference.
The Democratic National Party needs to do its part by stating clear, reasonable goals and investing in viable candidates. The 2018 elections are our next best hope for reclaiming a truly bi-partisan Congress, a legislative body that can actually legislate, rather than spend their days bickering and feuding. The purpose of the legislative branch of the U.S. government is to make law that is in the best interest of the nation and its people, to provide ‘checks and balances’ to the power of the presidency. Its purpose is not what we have seen for the past seven months.