Democrats were slaughtered in the 2014 elections because they offered no coherent vision, inspiration or plan to make life better for Americans and allowed Republicans to turn the election into a referendum against everything that voters despise about Washington.
Democrats can win a resounding victory in the presidential campaign in 2016 and make a bid to regain control of Congress by offering a muscular, confident, faith-based and patriotic progressivism aimed at restoring an American dream that most voters believe is dying.
Americans feel economically beleaguered after decades in which real wages and incomes have been stagnant or falling, while the real cost of living has been rising, leaving them falling further and further behind. Economic data does not tell the story of a middle class under siege while some 50 million Americans live in poverty; 20 percent of American children go to bed hungry; 3 percent of our children are homeless; and millions of jobless workers have become so depressed they have stopped looking for work.
The collapse of confidence in the American dream is dramatized by exit polls of those who voted in 2014 revealing that barely 20 percent believe the next generation will live better than they do.
Democrats in 2016 should run a campaign to restore the American dream. No two Democrats are more important to this mission than Hillary Clinton, the only potential presidential candidate with a clear opportunity to compete in almost every state and win a national landslide victory, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the leading voice of American progressives and a new member of the Senate Democratic leadership who has urged Clinton to run for president.
These two women, who agree on virtually every issue that would form the platform to restore the dream, have the potential to build a relationship that would be complementary, synergistic and inspiring for Democrats.
For Clinton as potentially the first woman president, for Democrats seeking to regain control of Congress and for Warren as a rising star in party leadership, there are three powerful political facts that provide the roadmap for Democrats to offer Americans what they want in their leaders.
First, the most popular modern president is John Kennedy. Second, the most popular living former president is Bill Clinton. Third, the most popular public figure throughout the world is Pope Francis, who denounces trickle-down economics and champions helping the poorest, reforming financial policy to create an economy that is fair for all, protecting the earth from environmental ravages that could destroy it and treating immigrants with justice and respect.
Republicans face a potential demographic disaster of alienating young voters, blacks, Hispanics and many women. Clinton, Warren and Democrats enjoy the prospect of creating a lasting majority in 2016 by inspiring their progressive base and expanding their support by championing a call — with plans for action and clarity of message — to revive the American dream for all men and women in all 50 states.
It is noteworthy that the two most inspiring national Democrats are both women. I have written before that the world has entered a Female Century, as women advance toward equality that should be the birthright of all, but what is happening is even more profound than that.
The Kennedy presidency ignited a spirit that started great battles for equality and justice, for blacks, Hispanics, women and gays. More work needs to be done, but this narrative of our nation, initiated by Democrats and accelerating over decades, is the powerful force that defines our modern history.
When Occupy Wall Street invented its call for an economy that lifts the 99 percent, and when Francis champions an economy that is just for all, they point the way to expanding the battle for equal rights to everyone through an American dream that Democrats campaign to bring alive again for all.
On this platform, Clinton and Warren stand together. With this platform, Democrats can win a historic victory in 2016.