Bringing a Spork
To the Table
While a Republican Senate “work group” is hammering out the next iteration of TrumpCare, the Democrats continue their Chicken Little impersonation without providing clear, articulated ideas about how they would repair Obamacare. Jon Ossoff’s loss in Georgia’s 6th District last night reflects that those deep Red districts, while not necessarily enamored of the President, are not bailing out of the Republican Party because of Trump. If the Democrats hope to flip the House --- as well as some Senate seats --- in 2018 they are going to have to do more than bring a Spork to the table.
First and foremost, what do the Democrats stand for, other than being anti-Trump? We are currently watching the result of 8 years of Republican frustration with Obama as the new President signs one Executive Order after another that undoes EPA rules, the Cuba agreement, gun control, civil rights (LBGT) regulations, and so on. While there have been no legislative accomplishments to speak of, McConnell and Ryan are emboldened by the total lack of opposition they now face. Those old enough to remember the 1993 Clinton attempt at passing health care will recall it being sabotaged by a very effective series of television ads featuring an older couple --- “Harry and Louise” (you can look them up on Wikipedia) --- who bemoaned all that might occur if the new health care package were to become law. Back in ’09-’10 you might remember the Republicans screaming from the rooftops about the “death panels” that Obamacare would introduce, etc. Public outcry led to a very watered-down version of the original Obamacare proposal. So, while the Democrats have no idea what’s in the Senate version of the bill, they certainly know what the House passed (a nightmare) and have plenty of material to work with. But what do we see? Whining and moaning from Democratic Senators, trying to invoke the fear of a health care bogeyman without providing any substance constituents might run with, much less anything to rally around.
The fact is, the Republicans are tougher, meaner, less compassionate about the poor, and more willing to look the other way regarding Trump as long as they can achieve their primary goals: undoing Obama’s legacy and providing massive tax cuts for wealthy Americans --- with the misbegotten notion that it will “spur the economy” (check out how that worked in Kansas if you want to see where we’re going with that one). And the Democrats? While claiming they represent the “working man” and middle class they have watched that base slowly but surely leak away starting with Richard Nixon’s 1968 “Silent Majority” and “hard-hat” alliance right up through Trump’s ascendance. Union membership in the U.S. has declined by 50% since 1983 (from 20% to 10%) and the Democratic leadership under Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Tom Perez, and Keith Ellison does not seem to have any clear direction or ideas that might bring “middle class” Americans back under their “Big Tent.” Breaking away from the “identity politics” that have defined them for a generation and creating a new, well-articulated party profile that demonstrates to the real people who populate this nation is what's called for.
With that, it is important to also recognize that what Trump has ushered in is an age where politicians no longer require the media --- mainstream or otherwise --- to propel their message. Jared Yates Sexton’s article in The Daily Beast on June 19th --- Why Trump Doesn’t Need Fox News Anymore --- shows how Trump has created a cult of personality in which “he, alone” provides “the truth” --- or at least what his base (and others) want to hear. Sexton clearly shows how Trump now controls his own narrative, how the Fox News “talking points” one used to hear in a working-class bar (from Roger Ailes’s memos to your “Fair and Balanced” ears) are no longer bandied about. Trump, in his two years in politics, has used celebrity and Twitter to usurp a major political party while bypassing all the media outlets. That he has only a passing acquaintance with facts and the truth does not matter to people who believe Trump and Breitbart and InfoWars.
While Hillary Clinton referred to this group as “deplorables,” they are, nonetheless, our fellow citizens and their disgruntled anger has to be acknowledged and understood --- not condescended to or disparaged. Figuring out how to appeal to low-information, fact-free voters while fashioning a party that clearly articulates WHAT it stands for and how it will implement its ideas to benefit the American people is the real challenge for the Democratic Party. Presently they keep showing up at a formal dinner table carrying their plastic spork thinking they’ll have an equal seat, ready to engage In the witty repartee and serious political dialogue --- but everybody sees that spork and knows this is not someone we need to take seriously.