The following is a dual guest post by Dustyn Thompson and Eric Morrison.
Nationally, Democrats are struggling to find a message that resonates with voters, reflecting the criticism of some outspoken activists like former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who says that the party has “lost its soul.” Almost laughably highlighting the struggle, one of several midterm slogans being tested by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is: “Democrats 2018. I mean, have you seen the other guys?”
Just last year, Democrats ran with the main position of not being Republicans–including Hillary Clinton, who ran on a platform of not being Donald Trump. Obviously, the plan failed miserably. Will we face the same problems next year, across America and right here in Delaware? We need a message that resonates with Delawareans and all Americans, and translates into positive legislative action in Dover and in D.C. We need a political party and candidates to stand for things, not against things. We need a Democratic Party, nationally and locally, with a vision for what America and its role in the world should be, not what they shouldn’t be. We need a party that stands up for universal, single-payer health insurance, a living wage, justice system reform, clean and fair elections with real campaign finance reform, and economic reform statewide and nationally. We need candidates who inspire and lead, welcoming new voices and viewpoints into the fold.
The Delaware Democratic Party has taken great steps toward a winning message, by adopting a new state platform and electing fresh leadership across various levels. The new state platform contains progressive ideology that just about anyone can support, while not tying down candidates who live in more moderate area of the state. Messages of addressing income inequality are etched in additions like, “The Delaware Democratic Party believes in a tax code that rewards work, promotes prosperity, and removes tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations which intensify inequality in our society.”
And the platform doesn’t stop at income inequality, a message that resonated strongly with voters during the 2016 primaries. It goes further, addressing tangible issues for Delawareans like economic advancement opportunities–or, in non-political speak–jobs. Per the new platform, “Delaware Democrats are proponents of putting Delawareans to work updating and expanding our roadways, bridges, rails lines, and public transit, which will enhance Delaware’s long-term economic growth while making our roads safer. Beyond transportation-related projects, we believe in identifying, supporting, and advancing key projects, such as expanding the Port of Wilmington, upgrading Delaware’s energy supply, and increasing high-speed internet access across the state, as a means to attract and retain businesses.”
The platform outlines other progressive strong points, like the need to increase the minimum wage to a living wage, a transition to clean energy infrastructure, campaign finance reform and public funding of elections, paid maternity leave, and universal preschool. These platform updates signal a sea change, and that the progressive movement is making headway in Delaware. We understand that our previous message–or lack thereof–was flawed. We have experienced a rush of new people becoming engaged in local politics. We have significant changes in leadership positions throughout the state party.
With the recent election of State Party Chairman Erik Raser-Schramm, we have witnessed new ideas and a new leadership style in the state party. Also, we have seen greater involvement of local party organizations, increased outreach to Democrats via email and social media campaigns, and expanded online dialogue between party officers and the general public. Further, at the New Castle County and City of Wilmington levels, we have seen serious changes in leadership. What will come of these changes remains to be seen since they just happened before summer break. However, many of the new leaders seem open to real change, and have fought diligently in the past for progressive reform.
All of these changes give hope that the State Party is responding to what we see nationally–a divided and floundering Democratic Party. People will stand up for the party only if the party will stand up for them. “Not being Republicans” clearly is not enough. Unfortunately, not long ago, national party leadership sent a shockwave through the progressive wing of the party by setting up a late-in-the-game challenge to Representative Keith Ellison in his quest for DNC chairmanship. Instead, they chose a very moderate Democrat with an utter lack of message and grassroots following, former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. This choice reinforced the idea that the party is unresponsive to the new progressive push ignited by 2016 Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Even today, the party continues struggling to find its way in a very different and emotionally-charged political landscape, to reclaim its footing and set the stage for significant gains in next year’s midterm elections.
One thing is for sure. Now is no time for flippant sarcasm and finger-pointing. Many Delawareans and Americans today face some very serious issues, including unsustainable income inequality and impending environmental catastrophe. Next year’s midterm elections will be here before you know it, and we have no time to waste in showing the American people that the Democratic Party has turned over a new leaf, and that we are ready to work tirelessly for their interests…if that’s really who we are. We are pleased with the State party’s apparent progress, but some individuals still want to run on a stale, losing message of, “We aren’t the other guys.” We will not win by shouting from the rooftops about who we aren’t. You would never hire a roofer whose sales pitch was, “I’m not the other guy.” Americans are not going to hire those kinds of politicians in 2018, either.
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““The Delaware Democratic Party believes in a tax code that … removes tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations …”
The Democrat governor and General Assembly must not have got that memo when they repealed the estate tax.
Delacrat is right. Don’t tell me, show me. While there are glimmers of hope in the work of people like Erik Raser-Schramm, recent evidence clearly shows that the Delaware Democratic Party is not the Party described in the platform document.
Do we really think a catchy slogan is the solution?
You don’t expect that anyone thinks a catchy slogan is a solution, right? A catchy slogan can be a key tool in any branding or marketing effort. The ones put forth by the DCCC are just stupid. They communicate nothing other than some jejune sensibilities of the kids they clearly pawned this effort off on. Or they communicate the complete bankruptcy of ideas coming from DCCC leadership, which is heartbreaking since the House can be taken next year and these guys are no where near ready for that fight.
My only quarrel with this very fine call to arms to get the party moving here toward productive work for the people is calling Tom Perez very moderate. There is nothing in his record as a labor and civil rights lawyer and excellent Secretary of Labor that suggests he’s not both progressive and aggressive.
Sorry–but to go way out on a limb here as somebody who isn’t a Democrat–I don’t agree with this post. I think that while this post does identify ways in which the DE Democratic Party has lost its way in a predominantly Democratic State, it completely misses the point of the seismic shift in American politics that resulted in the election of Donald Trump. Democrats didn’t lose because they thought “not being Republican” was sufficient to win votes and elections, but because they didn’t pay sufficient attention to the building of a consistent if totally delusional, self-referential world of “alternative facts” that has now completely enmeshed 40-60 millions Americans who have a much higher voting percentage than rational citizens.
George Lakoff would understand how politically efficient “framing” has worked. The “fake news” meme is only the latest in a long list of successful memes that play directly to prejudices and fears–it followed the model of the successful creation of “anti-science” memes to combat things as disparate as vaccinations, global climate change, and the theory of evolution. We’ve gotten to watch the process in action in highly sophisticated form over the past six months–the “deep state” as an enemy of “draining the swamp” was literally created in whole cloth right in front of our faces.
There is now a flavor of racism circulating for every level of plausible deniability, all of which are designed (and, yes, they all have been designed in a very intentional sense) to make it politically possible to use the State to re-segregate, de-educate, disfranchise, and brutally police the minds (and bodies) of people of color. The “pastel” versions of these racialized memes have successfully infiltrated deeply into even liberal and progressive dialogues about poverty, education, and policy.
Christianity, which ironically began its existence as a revolt against imperialism, has now been (statistically) completely co-opted into the service of the State. The “social gospel,” as part of a national conversation, is dead.
We are living in a country wherein you now have to actually argue that health care for poor children is not theft of other people’s property before you’re even allowed to discuss health care policy. “Freedom” has been redefined as “selfishness” to an extent that Ayn Rand must surely be smiling smugly in hell.
The post above is speaking–if I may use a linguistic analogy–of what’s happened in terms of the vocabulary and possibly the grammar of political language, but what’s really happened is a long-term, strategically planned shift in syntax and morphology. By allowing their political opponents (who, to give them their credit, needed thirty years of quiet, patient work to get the job done) to control the very language we’re using to discuss politics and policy, Democrats have allowed themselves to be penned into a very tight corner from which the only real escape will involved just as many years of heavy lifting as the conservatives used to create the trap.
Talk about connecting the dots! I’m torn between thanking you for this comment and sobbing in a corner.
snewton929, That comment would have been every bit as powerful even if I hadn’t just read that the “Russian interference in our election” issue has “now entered climate change territory as unsolvable, with two intractable perspectives at a deadlock.”