Actually, Being Anti-Trump Is Democrats’ Best Messaging
From your favorite random Twitter accounts to the talking heads on cable news networks, we all hear the same thing: Democrats don’t have a real message. What do Democrats stand for? They can’t just be anti-Trump!
Well, no, they can’t just be anti-Trump — but it’s a damn good start.
Democrats have a message that resonates with most Americans. Affordable healthcare and college, better public education, making the wealthy pay their share, helping elevate women, people of color, and the LGBT+ community, protecting the social safety net, prison reform, drug reform, immigration reform, and stricter gun control laws are all things that at least a plurality of Americans favor in one way or another, and these are all issues Democrats tackle at the local, state, and national levels.
That also happens to be everything Donald Trump — and his Republican enablers — stand against.
Since Trump took office, the GOP has made healthcare more expensive by undercutting Obamacare, let for-profit colleges off the leash, encouraged the rise of “faith-based” and charter schools to syphon money from public schools, cut taxes for the extremely wealthy, attacked the rights of women to control their own bodies, aligned themselves with literal NAZIs, attacked transgender troops and removed protections for gay people, advocated for work requirements for Medicaid, fought its expansion, and actively advocate for cutting social programs to pay for the aforementioned tax cuts for the wealthy, allowed the cancerous private prisons to flourish, advocated for the death penalty for drug dealers and addicts, banned people from Muslim majority countries, demonized people from Latin America and refugees in general, and have aligned themselves with the NRA, a group that exists to sell as many guns as possible while masquerading as a civil rights group.
Does that seem like a lot in just under a year and a half? It is. And what better messaging could Democrats hope for than running in opposition to such disastrous policies? That’s exactly what they’re doing, but still, the media and even some Democrats, push this idea that the party has no message – even in light of the data indicating anti-Trump sentiment is surging and mobilizing protestors.
The question now is, why?
Much of the blame lies in the media for this, but Democrats share the blame in refusing to re-evaluate their tactics.
For all the “Democrats need a message other than being anti-Trump” talk: new analysis finds he’s been mentioned in just 27% of Dem campaign ads for Congress this year; over the same period in 2014, Obama was mentioned in about 60% of Republican ads: https://t.co/ZwtK6h3m4a
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) May 18, 2018
Republicans have been allowed to claim a message to which they don’t adhere. The media has simply accepted, for example, that Republicans are the party of the working middle class, every day Joe Six-Pack with no empirical proof. The economy soared under Bill Clinton, then absolutely collapsed under New Bush and was subsequently saved by Barack Obama. But still, Obama was given very little credit for this recovery — which we are still feeling — for reasons difficult to comprehend.
Obama saw job creation go up and the federal deficit go down, but the Obama economy has only started getting the credit it deserves now that he’s left office, while Trump is celebrated every day the stock market goes up a couple of points. Additionally, the media ignores Trump’s economic failures all the while applauding him for simply benefitting from trends Obama started.
For example, the unemployment number dropping is simply a continuing trend:
One doesn’t need a degree in Political Science to understand that graph.
While Obama took inherited a federal deficit in the whole 1.4 trillion dollars, it fell by hundreds of billions of dollars to 585 billion when he left office.
That tick up in the federal deficit could be attributed to a trend started under Obama, as the deficit did begin to rise slightly in 2015. However, many economists (and the Congressional Budget Office) agree the increase in the federal deficit under Trump can be directly attributed to the signature Tax Bill the GOP passed in late 2017.
The bill is expected by the CBO to add $1.8 trillion to the deficit — which is worse than Obama inherited altogether — including $1 trillion of that coming by 2020. Additionally, the CBO expects the national debt, which Republicans claimed to care about while Obama was in office, to balloon from $21 trillion now to $33 trillion over the next decade.
I get it, numbers are boring, and this is a little off track, so I’ll get back to the point, which is this: Democrats can run on the economy. No, it’s probably not worth mentioning that the good parts of the economy can be attributed to Obama because voters don’t really care. What they will care about, however, are failures that can be tied around the necks of Trump and the GOP and, clearly, the tax bill is a failure or, at the very least, it very shortly will be.
While we know the “economic anxiety” theory of the 2016 election is largely bogus, the economic message will appeal to many of the independent swing voters and even the Obama-Trump voters and is absolutely worthy of the Democrats’ time.
To be fair, many Democrats did come out pounding the table against the tax bill and warned of many of the repercussions we’re now seeing from the bill. Corporations are still moving jobs overseas; they are buying back stock shares rather than reinvesting in their workers, the average middle-class worker is seeing minimal effects if any, and so on.
But if Democrats don’t say it, how are voters going to know it?
The problem lies not in the message, but in the delivery.
Democrats cannot rely on the media to pass along even objective truths like Republicans’ economic failures and Democrats’ successes. The narrative says Republicans are the party of the economy and seemingly nothing to the contrary will convince the talking heads.
The solution to that is to steal a page from the Republican playbook: book every TV show that will have you, pick some buzzwords and phrasing that will resonate, and be unapologetic in pushing your message. Not just economically, but socially, which is going to be extremely important in 2018 and beyond, as evidenced by a poll in Texas — yes, Texas — that found voters support tighter gun laws, abortion in most cases, marijuana legalization, and opposed building a wall.
Democrats can run on the economy and social issues, yet some seem to believe that the truth will just make its way into people’s homes and minds and that will bring them around. That’s not how politics works anymore, especially not in the age of social media, picking our own news, and the echo chambers in which we all live.
There are, of course, voters that will never come around. But that’s fine. And it’s another issue Democrats must address, accept, and move on from. Stop trying to reach out to the crowd who believes Mexicans are rapists and Syrian children are all terrorists. It is a lost cause (it’s not happening, Bernie) and that’s fine. It would be far more productive to try and reach the 45% of Americans who didn’t vote. Democrats have a message that will reach a majority of good-hearted Americans and do not need the slobbering racists afraid of their own shadow because it’s got a dark complexion.
Remaining quiet on your abortion stance will not convince that evangelical voter. Refusing to vocally support the LGBT+ community is not going to convince the homophobe to vote blue. Not demanding stricter gun control isn’t going to sway the NRA member.
There are hearts and minds to be changed, of course. But there’s the untapped voter out there who Democrats stand for, but they don’t know it yet.
The high school senior turning 18 this year and traumatized by all the school shootings sees a Democrat demand gun control. The gay man who has yet to come out sees a Democrat pledging their support that his life will not be in danger because of who he is. The Muslim family who sees a Democrat refuse to back down to bigotry. The black woman who sees a Democrat vowing to fight systemic racism and for her right to control her own body. The parent who sends their children to a public school with 50-year old books sees a Democrat fight for better funding. A 19-year old college sophomore already drowning in debt sees a Democrat promise to make it more affordable. The underemployed person just trying to make ends meet sees a Democrat call for wage increases. The person dying a treatable disease because health insurance is beyond their means sees a Democrat marching for them.
These are the people Democrats can, and must, talk to. They must reach out and let them know that yes, I am anti-Trump. But I am anti-Trump because I am for you. I fight Trump because he stands in opposition to the American ideal and this great experiment deserves to live on. I fight because he is on the wrong side of history and this great country deserves better. And I fight the Republicans who enable him to attack our country’s rule of law, its disenfranchised citizens, and to enrich himself and his friends because it is necessary and it is right.
We had “Yes We Can.” That’s over. It’s time to move on.
No, He Can’t.
Yes. We. Will.