I’ve been seeing a lot of “Democrats need to focus on beating Trump” and “Democrats don’t need new ideas, just beat Trump.” With respect, this is dumb. The opposition of the Dems to Trump is not in question, nor is the case against Trump. Someone has to emerge as candidate, that’s job one.
That person needs to be the best messenger and must have the strongest message. If the message is just “beat Trump” it doesn’t address the needs of voters, nor does it address how we beat Trump, McConnell and Trumpism in the long run.
Old Dem compromises helped create the conditions from which Trumpism grew. Further, it is going to take a real wave to beat McConnell and Co. in the Senate which is crucial–and that requires a movement, best candidate with a real solid better offer/future for the American people.
Does that mean they should be discuss the minutiae of policy differences? Not unless it helps the best candidate win the nomination. Will that help with most voters, no? Is part of the reason those things get discussed media efforts to pit candidates against each other? Yes.
Clear, strong, big, persuasive ideas are needed that differentiate Dems from Trump and the GOP. They include:
- Dems believe every American should have health coverage. GOP wants to take health care away from millions.
- Dems want to create opportunity and combat inequality. GOP works for the 1% and corporate interests.
- GOP gave big tax cut to the rich. Dems want it undone and benefits to go to middle class and needy Americans.
- Dems believe there is a climate crisis and want to fix it. GOP denies the crisis and is making it worse.
- Dems believe Americans should have better, more affordable access to better education to help them get better jobs. GOP is dismantling the Department of Education and focusing on supporting educational priorities of the few.
- Dems want everyone to have a secure retirement. GOP is making it more likely more people will struggle through their retirement years.
- Dems want common sense gun controls to stop the violence that killing tens of thousands of innocents each year. GOP is doing the bidding of the NRA.
- Dems want America to be secure by strengthening alliances and international institutions. GOP is dismantling and damaging the alliances and institutions the US has worked to build since the end of WWII.
- Dems want to stand up to Russia and other countries attacks on our democracy. GOP is defending Russia and refusing to fund needed defenses.
- Dems want humane, sensible immigration policies that give undocumented immigrants who are here a path to citizenship and which secure our borders in the future. GOP puts babies in cages at the border and violates international law with racism based policies against immigrants and those seeking asylum.
- Dems want tolerance and equal opportunity for all. GOP supports the racist, misogynist, white nationalist policies of a racist president.
- Dems want to ensure no one is above the law and public officials are held accountable for their crimes and corruption. GOP is undermining the rule of law, attacking the Constitution, and fostering a culture of corruption in government.
- Dems want campaign finance and election reform that guarantees all the ability to participate in our democracy. GOP promotes voter suppression and twisting democracy so it supports only the rich and big companies.
- Dems want a government that is transparent and tells the truth to the people. GOP supports a president who is a pathological liar and backroom deals.
- Dems want to rebuild American infrastructure and ensure 21st American economic leadership. GOP Senate blocks progress and GOP undercuts US growth with costly trade wars that impose a new tax on vulnerable Americans.
The key for Dems is to ensure that Main Street America understands these key distinctions between Democrats and Republicans. Details of these policies can be debated later. But the candidate the Democrats pick must be a compelling communicator of the above ideas and one who instills real confidence and optimism they can get done. That’s why the primary process is so important. It helps refine details and test them and listen to what Democrats across the country want. But it also helps us see the intangibles of our leaders.
It reveals their character and intelligence and vision and energy. It answers whether they are great communicators, can think on their feet, can win a debate, can manage a campaign, can grow. These traits are not only important to beating Trump.
They are vital to leading for the eight years that follow. They are vital to tapping into the substantial majorities of Americans who support the Dems in each of the policy areas identified above. It is key to defeating once and for all the factors that led to Trumpism.
Those who tell you the answer is to turn Democrats into a faceless chorus of anti-Trump criticism and to offer little beyond the promise of beating him, are creating a formula not only for Trump’s return to office but of more dangerous Trumpist demagoguery in the future.
Those anti-Trumpers who tell Democrats that the only way to beat Trump is to behave like the moderate Republicans they have been all their lives are not preaching moderation, they are preaching capitulation to the kind of ideas that promoted the inequality and coded values that ultimately evolved into the racist corruption of Trumpism. Those who say hitting reset is all America has to do do not understand the scale of the challenges we face to maintain a vibrant, cohesive society or they don’t want to accept the changes necessary to get us there. Those who want to pit progressive against moderates don’t understand that each of the ideas cited above link those groups and give the Democratic Party its strength and its appeal.
The process will take care of itself. There will be no mistaking the Democrats want to end the crushing, crippling, cruel reality of the Trump-McConnell government that weakens America every day and is the greatest threat the country faces.
The only way to undermine it is to try to truncate it or subvert it to serving the purposes of those who do not have the long-term best interests of the party or the country at heart. It is essential Democrats win in 2020.
But the election can be more than the defeat of Trump and McConnell and their cronies and enablers. It can be the beginning of the end of Trumpism and of the deep divisions that threaten America and create opportunities for demagogues.
It can be a watershed election, a turning point. It can be not just the end of an ugly chapter in American history but the beginning of something new and exciting for the country.