Wake up, Democrats. ‘We Aren’t Republicans’ is not a platform.
On July 5, the Democratic Party sent out fundraising emails asking for people to help them decide on a new slogan for the party’s 2018 campaign push. They were less than impressive.
Social media blew up instantly with criticisms from both the right and the left. The slogans seemed to focus less on policy and platform (you know, the things that actually win elections). Instead, these potential rallying calls pushed attention toward the only saving grace of the Democratic Party, and the one thing they have relied on to try to keep power in the twisting intricacies of US politics. Basically, the new taglines said only “At least we aren’t Republicans”.
Between clever rhymes with the word “Resist” and “Make Congress Blue Again,” a play on President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, is this really the best that the Democratic Party has to offer the American public by way of political agenda? After years of (deservedly) criticizing the GOP for obstructing Democratic policy and legislation during the Obama administration, basing the entirety of the Democratic opposition on “Resisting” every GOP legislation attempts seems rather hypocritical.
And, seriously, Democrats? “Have you seen the other guys?” With campaign platform ideas like this, it’s hard to imagine why your party isn’t winning every election in a landslide.
These slogans are a visual representation of what is probably the biggest problem with the Democratic election strategy, in this writer’s opinion. They don’t have one. And they have been steadily adopting the Republican’s strategy, rebranding it as their own, and hoping that the American public can’t see through the ruse.
Just like the “Make Congress Blue Again/Make America Great Again” slogan idea, the Democrats have been shifting further and further to the right in hopes of gaining support from the center and moderate Republican voters in affluent suburbs, and turning their backs on the working class and minorities. And this strategy has lost the Democrats around 1,000 seats in government at all levels in the past few election cycles, which apparently is the goal of the Democratic Party because these slogans show that they are doubling down.
Take the recent special election in Georgia’s 6th District, for example. Democrat Jon Ossoff raised over $23 million in campaign funds in an attempt to flip a red district to Democratic control. He did far better than many expected but ultimately lost. Some have called it a “moral victory,” since a Democrat should never have done so well in such a staunchly Republican-voting area. But others, this author included, see it a little differently.
Ossoff’s loss was less a result of the GOP base being stubborn and refusing to vote for a Democrat, but more of an issue of campaign strategy. The problem was the platform that Ossoff ran on, a platform that was virtually identical to the letter of the corporate influenced Democratic Party. He opposed single-payer healthcare, a position that has been a rallying point for the progressive voter base, and he focused on spending cuts and business development. Which raises the question “Why would voters support a Republican-light Democrat when they can just vote for a Republican instead?”
Where some will point to the fact that voters in Georgia’s 6th District almost always vote Republican, one would think that dumping millions of dollars into what they now claim was an unwinnable election is an exercise in futility. Which means that the Democratic Party thought Ossoff could win, particularly just by saying “This Jon Ossoff character isn’t Trump, and he isn’t a Republican, so why not vote for him?”
But perhaps Ossoff’s loss could be tied to the policy stances he took. When we look at the results a different special election, one that was virtually completely ignored by the Democrats, we see a bit of a different angle on these usually staunchly red districts than what the Democratic Party is claiming.
In Montana, a state that Donald Trump won by more than 20 points in the 2016 presidential election, Democratic challenger Rob Quist almost defeated Greg Gianforte for the state’s only seat in the House of Representatives. Where Ossoff enjoyed millions of dollars in support from the DNC in his Georgia race, due to his policy stances falling in line with the corporatist centrist Democratic Party platform, Quist got almost no attention other than vocal support from Senator Bernie Sanders, who is the most popular politician in the United States today.
The reason? Rob Quist was a Sandernista.
Quist’s platform was focused on helping the working class and students in Montana, protecting women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality, and renewable energy, among many other key progressive issues. These are all things that the Democratic Party supposedly supports. Why, then, did they give Quist so little support and Ossoff so much?
Some claim that it was because they saw Montana as a lost cause and that supporting Quist would have been financially wasteful. But if that’s the case, doesn’t that make the millions of dollars pumped into the Ossoff campaign also wasteful?
The plain fact of the matter is that Ossoff embodied the centrist corporate spirit of the “People’s Party,” whereas Quist didn’t. And the results show it. Ossoff, despite that financial and public support from the Democratic Party, still lost. Quist, on the other hand, with only grassroots funding and Senator Sanders’ vocal support, brought his race to a 6-point margin. What would have happened if the Democratic Party had actually shown Quist some financial support?
And in Wichita, Kansas, earlier in the year, the same scenario played out. James Thompson, the Democratic nominee for an empty House seat, was defeated by Republican Ron Estes with a margin of about 7 points. Where the GOP poured millions into campaigning for their party’s candidate, the Democratic Party left Thompson blowing in the wind.
“If the national Democratic Party would start getting more involved in these races earlier, then maybe we could flip them,” Thompson said in an interview after the election. “It’s frustrating.”
In a district where Trump won by 27 points, the idea that it was an unwinnable race is appealing. But seeing the close margin of victory, we can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the Democrats had actually given even a little support to Thompson. And we can help but wonder why they didn’t.
If this is the party of “Resisting,” wouldn’t that be a good place to start? But James Thompson had something in common with Rob Quist. Both were progressive candidates, and ran on progressive platforms, including single-payer healthcare. Seems that these policies stances are more popular than the Democrats’ idea of centrist corporatism. And it also seems that running on populist ideas that have widespread support on both sides of the aisle is a surefire way to get the Democrats to ignore any election.
The takeaway from this is that these new slogan ideas, which focus not on any sort of policy or platform but instead on a “Hey, at least we aren’t the other side” sort of plea of desperation, is not surprising or even new. The “Vote for us because we aren’t them” platform is one of the biggest reasons that the Democrats have lost so badly over the past eight years or so. And, as usual, instead of some self-criticism and an actual analysis of the reasons they’ve lost so badly, the Democratic Party is now embracing it wholeheartedly. And, as the Party of “We aren’t really sure where we stand, but we know it isn’t with the Republicans, except when it comes to supporting war, opposing single-payer healthcare, privatizing education, gutting social welfare, and increasing austerity measures,” we can be sure that the Democratic Party will continue to lose for years to come.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]