I clearly remember the 2004 campaign season. We had invaded a country on a false premise. Four major hurricanes caused death and destruction in Florida. Abu Ghraib further diminished America’s declining global reputation. The September 11th report concluded that we were unprepared for the terrorist attacks in 2001. The Bush Administration outed a covert CIA operative jeopardizing intelligence gathering operations. The negligent abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol in order to delay any serious climate change action response.
The Democrats nominated John Kerry. I supported and voted for him. He had honorably served in our military and dedicated his life to public service. From my perspective he would have been a solid choice (although not my first choice) to lead America.
Despite running against an administration that was viewed as inept in many areas and very corrupt in others the Bush/Cheney Administration won the 2004 election and continued policies that led America to the brink of economic collapse. Much of John Kerry’s unsuccessful campaign was predicated on a “I’m not Bush” message. While a clear delineation from your opponent and their policies is important—the campaign largely failed. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was flawed as well—however it’s still important to remember she had a near 3 million popular vote advantage.
Fast forward to April, 2018. We have an inept, corrupt President, Vice President and Cabinet. Each individual associated with what would best be described as a crime syndicate or a “disorganized crime family” would not likely survive any independent ethics investigation. The President’s random attacks on anyone that is not Putin—are calculated to distract us from his efforts to enrich himself and from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s detailed and continuing investigation.
There are some good potential candidates that could challenge a 2020 re-election campaign. However the Democrats will lose again—and the consequences for the America we aspire to be will be dire. The Democrats must run a coherent, readily accessible and emotionally engaging campaign that portrays what it means to be progressive.
Dr. George Lakoff has provided insight into political language and framing—how people think, engage and vote. I’ve often said the Democrats should produce brief videos that make each plank of the Democratic platform come to life in a 60–90 second video. While imperfect—the Democratic platform articulates an America most Americans would want—if it was properly framed by the Democrats and not the obscenely wealthy and their GOP shills.
I often think of Conservation International’s “Nature is Speaking” campaign. They produced a series of stunningly beautiful brief videos narrated by Julia Roberts, Harrison Ford and others on the premise that we are pushing our planet and environment to the brink of disaster. An equivalent effort, for example “Democracy Is Speaking” could present a consistent style of emotionally connecting content based upon the premise that we are pushing our own aspirations of an American democracy to the absolute brink as we teeter toward a plutocracy.
Showing a brief video about an array of issues that emotionally connects people to being a part of the American community. That we are a diverse nation that is stronger when we stand together. We work hard. We take care of one another. We recognize that we have responsibility to not only ourselves and our families -but to our communities, America and the world.
Your role as a candidate for office is to lead—state your position, prepare an emotionally connecting argument in support of it and bring people to you. This is how you lead.
Furthermore, we cannot simply stand behind candidates that do not embrace the platform. When people vote, they are voting for leadership. Abandoning Women’s rights because it might not play well is weak. Your role as a candidate for office is to lead—state your position, prepare an emotionally connecting argument in support of it and bring people to you. This is how you lead.
Perceived leadership is not asking “Who do you want me to be today?” The Democrats must have a set of well-established platform planks in which there is little “adaptability”:
- No assault weapons. No large-capacity magazines.
- No leaking pipelines running through sacred lands and risking environmental disasters.
- No abandonment of Women’s rights.
- Public education, affordable higher education and skills training should be as a national budget priority.
- Affordable, high-quality healthcare for all.
- Funding for law enforcement to eliminate racists and those prone to violence—and more training for situational de-escalation.
- The expansion and protection of voting rights, LGBTQ and labor rights.
These and more are absolutes. If you want to run and support candidates that waver, they are creating confusion among voters and that ambiguity will be paid for in numerous lost elections in the future.
We must not abandon regions because they are well-insulated from progressive thought. We must properly challenge how we are framed and grow in rural communities. State and local elections are vital. School boards are vital. County clerks are important.
If we care about the America we could be—and those before us that have paid the ultimate price for our future –we must work together, respecting the differences we are certain to have along the way. Let’s keep the mountaintop always in mind and heart –instead of the issues where we are easily divided (and thus conquered).
George A. Polisner