Expectations are dramatically high for a blue tsunami to overtake Congress in the upcoming midterm elections. Yes, historically speaking, the party in charge of the Executive Branch sees some backlash during their first midterm following their ascent to the highest office in the land. Couple that with a President who lost the popular vote by a significant margin and is under FBI investigation, and Democrats have reason to be downright giddy about potential gains this November.
However, it won’t be that easy. The Senate is a long shot. With so many Democratic incumbents up for re-election in red states, the Democrats will be doing well to hold their current position. The House is a different story. If not for the unconscionable gerrymandering of Republican statehouses after the 2010 census, the House would all but be assured to land in Democratic hands. It’s a foregone conclusion that Dems will win the popular vote in the overall House election but still may not wrestle control.
The Democratic party itself is going through a reflection point which won’t be settled until the Democratic primary season of 2020 and only then if the emerging candidate proves successful in the 2020 election. If he or she loses, it will be back to the drawing board with plenty of finger pointing and blame to go around. Regardless of what direction the party takes, there are certain fundamental political strategies the Democrats must adopt now to win back the House and set the tone for 2020. They are centered around 3 general principles which we will explore in greater detail in this article. First, the Democrats must continue to hammer away at the gross misconduct and hypocrisy of the GOP leadership. Next, they have to control the messaging on the economy, healthcare, social issues and religion. Finally, the Democrats need to stand for something. They need a platform that working class Americans can rally around.
Hammer Trump but not the Trump voter
In this world of social media and echo chambers, it is imperative for Democrats to break through the clutter of misinformation and outright lies. When everything is viewed through a partisan lens and the Twitter-in-Chief appeals to his base and refutes every legal maneuver in real time, the Democrats need to appeal directly to the Trump voter who is tired of politics as usual and wants a decent wage.
Yes, the Mueller investigation will continue to dominate the news cycle. Let it and remind voters of it. More importantly, hammer Trump on the issues. He promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something terrific. We’re still waiting. All he has accomplished is to hit Obamacare on the fringes while raising costs and leaving many with about affordable care.
Trump loves to tout the low unemployment numbers and high stock market valuations. That’s wonderful news for the top 1% but what is it doing for the working class? Real wages have not seen gains in decades and the minimum wage remains ridiculously low. Trump’s response is that the cost of labor is too high. The tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans and corporations aren’t trickling down to workers. Corporate America is taking the gains and buying back stock instead of raising wages. Hammer these messages home and appeal to those independents who voted for Trump hoping for something better which did not materialize.
Control the Messaging
Republicans have dominated the messaging for decades to the point that they can get half of the electorate to vote against their own interests. That’s an amazing feat. Democrats have to play the game instead of continuing to take the high road. “When they go low, we go high,” is a wonderfully idealistic and admirable slogan but horrible politics. Democrats don’t need to compromise who they are or what they stand for, but they must fight back against the constant cascade of slander and lies. Democrats are neither the Godless creatures nor coastal elites that they are made out to be. So, here are a few hot button issues for Democrats to take control of the messaging:
With Justice Kennedy’s retirement, Roe v. Wade has never been more imperiled. Since a substantial majority of Americans support the decision, now is the time for Democrats to seize the opportunity to take control of this issue. For years, Republicans have characterized pro-choice Democrats as “pro-abortion” which satisfied their base while not harming them with fair minded independents who believed Roe v. Wade was settled law and we weren’t ever going back. Well, now we look like we are going back. Make this a constitutional issue about freedom of choice and Supreme Court precedent. Show some heart while you’re doing it. Talk about how abortion is a horrible thing not to be taken lightly which is why the heck the government should stay out of it. Talk about how Republicans would force a rape victim to carry a pregnancy to term which may be the grossest government intrusion imaginable. Make abortion about the constitution, freedom of choice and government intrusion. This is a slam dunk for Democrats now that Roe v. Wade is in serious jeopardy.
Don’t run from Christianity. Embrace it. Yes, you are the party that honors separation of church and state, but you are also the party that embraces the values of Christianity. Wear bible verses on your sleeve that illustrate how we need to take care of the poor and the disenfranchised. Use Jesus as an example. Contrast that with the blasphemous Republican version of Jesus that demonizes the poor, idolizes guns, and uses religion as a weapon for bigotry and injustice.
Own the constitution. Don’t concede to the party that cares so little for it that it has completed reinvented its intent. Call out the GOP appointed ‘activist’ judges that manipulate the constitution to satisfy big corporate greed in decisions such as US v. Heller and Citizens United. Talk about separation of church and state. Talk about how the 14th Amendment guarantees equal rights for all. Most of all, talk about the 1st Amendment which contains our most cherished rights. Trump has attacked our freedom of the press like no other President and the GOP has been complicit. Without freedom of the press, there is no democracy.
Make Stephen Miller the Face of the GOP and the Trump Administration
As dishonest as Trump is, there’s an undeniable certain charisma to him that allows him to con so many. Not so with Stephen Miller. He comes off as ghastly as he is. Make him a focal point.
Introduce the term Regressive into the political lexicon
Remember how for decades after Jimmy Carter, Republicans made “liberal’ into a dirty word. By definition, conservatives are against change. Start using the term regressive to accurately describe this thinking. It couldn’t come at a better time. There’s a laundry list of progress that Trump has undone that can be highlighted. More importantly, critical gains such as marriage equality for all Americans and freedom of choice for women’s rights hang in the balance. The Regressives want to take us back and unwind decades worth of progress. America has always been forward thinking and moving head. It’s in our DNA. Every great president from Washington to Lincoln to both Roosevelts has been liberal, progressive and forward thinking.
Now, imagine a campaign with Stephen Miller front and center loaded with his quotes and the voice of God saying “Don’t be regressive; let’s take America forward!”
Stand for Something
Democrats need to show that they are solidly behind the working class. Don’t focus on social issues. For those voters who put social issues first, the battle lines have been drawn and there’s not much to be won on either side. Focus on the economy and health care. Emphasize how real wages continue to crumble as the 1% gets richer. Shout about the exploding deficit and how we are mortgaging our future for tax cuts for the rich. Point out that tariffs are taxes that affect the working class more than anyone else. Then stand for something. Come up with a bold infrastructure plan that will truly build up America and put the American working class first. Our bridges, tunnels and roads are in dire need of repair. We can lead the world in high speed rail transportation. Let’s own the 21st century like we did the 20th by being bold in our innovation and infrastructure.
Introduce a comprehensive immigration plan that is tough on our borders but is compassionate to dreamers and children. Point out that immigration has always been a huge driver of economic growth throughout our history.
Finally, introduce a sensible health care plan that will lower costs, benefit more Americans and stimulate the economy. Most Americans are ill informed. Illustrate how Trump’s policies have caused health care premiums to explode.
Democrats can’t take gains for granted in the mid-terms and they can’t run only against Trump. They need to redefine their brand as one that stands up for all Americans including the working class.