Well, it is now July, 2018, and earlier talk of a Democratic victory to retake Congress in a “Blue Wave,” has now changed, in the eyes of some political pundits, into a “blue splash over” as Donald Trump’s behavior and aggressiveness is becoming normalized in the public, and especially in the Republican, mind.
Democratic leaders still seem to be thinking that being anti-Trump is the best way to win, that Trump’s dangerous and erratic behavior is enough to move some of those who voted for him two years ago back into the Democratic electoral fold.
They are wrong. Except for a few disgusted middle and upper-class voters who voted for Trump because they convinced themselves that somehow he would change Washington and “drain the swamp,” most of Trump’s supporters continue to like him viscerally because he expresses their hurts, their anger, their sense of being ignored by the big money elite.
Trump’s behavior doesn’t really bother his hardcore supporters because it just shows that he isn’t a politically correct elitist; he is not one of “Them.”
Trump’s behavior doesn’t really bother them because it just shows that he isn’t a politically correct elitist; he is not one of “Them.”
Surely, say rational Democrats, Trump’s reputation must have suffered from his failure to deliver on promises that brought him many votes. Where are the infrastructure projects and jobs, the better health care plan, the improvements in NAFTA? Instead we have tax cuts for the rich, attacks on unions, plans to privatize as much as possible (especially public education), and a determination to reduce Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
None of this matters however.
Those who rely on a deeper understanding of human emotions rather than on statistical analysis of voting patterns tell us that support for Trump has more to do with what he is doing to their presumed enemies than what he is doing for them. “Joe six-pack” finally has a teetotaler in the White House who understands him!
And Democrats have less than five months to understand and respond to this reality.
It can be done, but it will take hard work and a clear change of course for the party of Pelosi and Schumer.
Democrats must break publically and loudly with the neo-liberal alliance with Wall Street established during the Clinton presidency. They must seriously attack the connection with corporate money and politics that now defines us as a plutocratic state governed by and for the rich.
Last year, Pelosi and Schumer announced a “Better Deal” agenda that pledged to address some of these issues. Why isn’t this being discussed more widely? Why isn’t MSNBC talking about this instead of the latest ethical or financial illegality by the Trump gang for which they believe Robert Mueller must surely punish them?
But I am not suggesting that Democrats begin the “class war” that Republicans—with their superb sense of political rhetoric—like to accuse them of whenever they suggest helping the poor rather than the rich. Quite the opposite.
Since Republicans have spent the past thirty years creating division, turning opponents into enemies (see Newt Gingrich) or suggesting that among those “enemies of the people”are not only “liberal media” but government itself (see Reagan and Trump), it is the job of Democrats in 2018 to consciously (and yes, loudly and publically) oppose divisiveness in America. Telling their supporters to publically shame and belittle Trump’s White House staff members or cabinet members by harassing them at restaurants or other public settings is definitely not the way to go.
Democrats must build community.
They can only do this by showing those who voted for Trump that they are fighting for them more than opposing Trump. Protest marches against Trump’s callous immigration policies are useful and important, but it is more important that Democratic leaders imitate Robert Kennedy and visit union halls, poverty-encrusted neighborhoods, and other places where people suffer.
They need to effectively and loudly promote sensible programs to help those burdened by debt, those without adequate medical care or real job prospects. They need, in short, to convince large numbers of Americans that they do truly understand their plight, their lack of hope, and they need to show them with concrete and creative proposals that they really care!
And Democrats need to appeal to the people of this country not as Black, Latinx, gay, male, female or any other categories that separate us from each other. They need to stop talking about identity groups and start talking about citizens, a category that includes rich and poor, members of all ethnic and demographic groups and occupations from top to bottom.
And while they are at it, Democrats could promise that, if they are chosen to lead Congress next year, they will make some significant changes in policy and procedure. Among these could be giving members the same insurance and pension benefits that most of the rest of Americans have (or don’t have). They could insist that Congressmen actually work three or four days a week and limit fund-raising to only one day. It is a start. They could even severely limit lobbyists.
All this would be much harder, of course, than showing voters that they care. Such a change would require self-sacrifice on the part of our leaders. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?