Wednesday, June 21, 2017
A Political Party Out of Fresh Ideas that Cannot See or Hear
The Democrats – still hopelessly divided between progressive and their traditional liberal elite agendas – decided to test the Trump-backlash waters in a Georgia Congressional district (Number 6, north of Atlanta) that has been overwhelmingly Republican since Jimmy Carter was president. It was a special election to replace Tom Price (M.D.) who had resigned to become head of the Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration. Even though the Dems have no clear uniform platform (other than “no” on Trump proposals), they felt they could make a point.
A Democratic challenger, John Ossoff, a relatively unknown young documentary filmmaker, was their choice. They turned the race, against favored GOP candidate, veteran politician (former Georgia Secretary of State) Karen Handel, into the most expensive Congressional race in America’s history. The Dems dumped $25 million into Ossoff’s campaign. The GOP raised about half that sum, with most ads framed as personal attacks against Ossoff, linking him with the deeply unpopular “San Francisco liberal elite Democrats” represented by House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, even as Ossoff’s actual platform was relatively centrist. The Dems still lost, Handel 51.9 percent/Mr. Ossoff 48.1 percent.
The GOP staged a victory dance to show how strong Trump remains in the nation. Empowered and believing that notwithstanding the secrecy surrounding the Senate healthcare revisions, the Republican Party was pretty sure that now Trumpcare would be law by the July 4th recess. But even if the Dems had won – and they did move the Democratic needle significantly in their favor – the only lesson any sane person would have drawn is that “money talks, and a lot of money screams.”
But clearly, money alone is not enough. There have been four “special elections” to replace House Republicans appointed to Trump administration posts. The Democrats have lost all four. Running “against the Trump agenda” has fallen short. Handel knew her local issues and played that hand. Remember that “all politics is local”? The Dems? Well, we “hate Trump” didn’t take them far enough. The Russian “collusion” investigation doesn’t even show up as an issue on the conservative radar. Huh? Oh yeah! A personality contest? Seriously?
“Although they received enormous political and financial support from allies in Washington, the two [Georgia District 6] candidates tiptoed around more polarizing national political figures. Ms. Handel rarely uttered Mr. Trump’s name of her own volition, preferring instead to highlight the district’s Republican lineage and warn that Mr. Ossoff would do Ms. Pelosi’s bidding. Only in declaring victory late Tuesday [6/20] night did Ms. Handel make a point of offering ‘special thanks to the president of the United States of America,’ a line that set off a boisterous chant of Mr. Trump’s name by the crowd.” New York Times, June 20th.
So where are the Democrats when it comes to the issues? The liberal elites (the Pelosi faction) – prioritizing equal justice, voter equality and protecting minority rights (Latinos – documented and undocumented – LGBT, African American and women in the workplace) stand against the progressive (represented by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) wing – promising strong educational subsidies, student loan forgiveness, higher taxes for the rich, deep financial and environmental regulation and expanded social programs, from healthcare to basic income support.
But there’s a catch: neither position resonates with the once-Democratic constituency that turned their votes to Donald Trump, working class Americans who are losing relevance in a globalized and automated world. Americans are traditionally and primarily centrists, and while they want to be safe from terrorists and have a solid immigration policy, “It’s the economy, stupid,” all the way. “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” Oh, and Trump really hasn’t been in office long enough for anyone, except Democrats, to feel he can’t cut it, to run out of optimism… to give him a chance. Bad timing Dems, and you still miss the point.
There is one Democrat who is frustrated that the Democrats (a) didn’t really see Donald Trump coming (Hillary Clinton barely campaigned in those northern, traditionally blue central Rust Belt states) and (b) still seem to be unaware that they still lack a meaningful, coherent message to counter Trump’s populist appeal. Writing for the June 20th Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart (in his Cape Up column) explains: “Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) is a stalwart of the Democratic Party from what used to be the blue state of Michigan. And unlike anyone else in her party, Dingell saw President Trump coming. She warned, pleaded and cajoled to no avail. Now, she feels like a stranger in her own party.
“‘The Democratic Party’s in disarray,’ Dingell told me in the latest episode of ‘Cape Up.’ ‘I don’t know where I belong. I’ve said that. I sometimes feel like I have no home even in the Democratic Caucus here.’ She went on to say, ‘We need to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and understand where their fear is coming from.’ Dingell also added this: ‘We took people for granted. We, for a long time, thought we had that worker, men and women, that union worker. We’ve lost them because we stopped talking to them.’
“Dingell said her Dearborn, Mich., constituents ‘don’t think we [Democrats] understand them.’ In the battle between automakers and environmentalists, Dingell is particularly clear-eyed. ‘I’d really love to bring permanent peace between California and Michigan,’ she said, noting that what her car constituents want is certainty. ‘If everybody agrees as they did on the fuel economy standards, then the companies have what they need, which is economic and political certainty.’”
Listen to Dingell, Democrats, or marginalize yourselves into oblivion. The 2018 mid-terms are stacked against you. “Of the 33 Senate seats up for reelection in 2018, the Democrats have to defend 25 of those seats. The GOP has only eight seats up for reelection with six of them in deeply red states.” RedState.com February 5th. What’s worse for the Dems, there are 45 more Republicans in the House than there are Democrats, a huge margin to overcome. Particularly with no coherent and “sticky” platform.
Indeed, in this Congress, incumbent liberal elite leader, mega-millionaire and San Francisco Democrat, 77-year-old Nancy Pelosi handily defeated Rust Belt working class representative, 43-year-old Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, to become House Minority Leader, effectively becoming the Party head. The Dems claimed the Pelosi victory was implemented to prioritize “stability,” but it was simply a spoils system that rewarded incumbents… and was truly a stupid move if reinventing a failed platform was the goal.
Voters are plagued by fake news, vulnerable to false promises and unworkable “solutions,” with social media pretty firmly favoring a much more sophisticated GOP communications machine. Here’s what the Dems are dealing with: “Seven percent of American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a new survey… The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy conducted a survey of more than 1,000 adults 18 and over in April 2017. It not only found that seven percent thought that chocolate milk only comes from brown cows, but that 48 percent of people aren't sure where chocolate milk comes from.” NBCnewyork.com, June 15th. OMG! OK, Nancy, see how many voters you can turnaround with your priorities.
I’m Peter Dekom, and what does a political alarm clock look like?