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.