The Democratic Party is in serious trouble. The 2000 and 2004 elections were extremely close, but I do not think our current reality can be measured in those terms. There are a few simple facts that cannot be denied:
- We have lost the South. Southern Democrats were never really Democrats anyway, but now they are outright hostile to the party. It does not matter if our candidate is from there or not, the vast majority of southerners now more closely identify with the Republican Party. For much of the South, moral issues have become the primary concern.
- Despite the absolute horror that has been wrought upon our country since Newt Gingrich’s Contract on America, the Republican Party has not only claimed control of the House and Senate, but that control continues to grow.
- We are losing more and more Statehouses.
- Bill Clinton did not win because of his party, policies, or platform. Bill Clinton won because he was Bill Clinton – he connected with people, had amazing charisma, and was an extraordinary public speaker. Take him out of the picture, and the Democrats have not won the Presidency since Jimmy Carter in 1976--against Gerald Ford.
We are in crisis. It cannot be denied or spun any longer. I see several major strategies that we need to begin developing immediately. It may take us more than four years, but we must begin now and stay true to our course for as long as it takes. We can take comfort in the fact that we know we are right, so we simply need to move forward with such conviction.
(1) We must immediately cease and desist from being “Republican-lite.”
- If I want a President who “hunts” and wants to “hunt down and kill the terrorists,” I am going to vote for George W. Bush. We never had a prayer with the NRA or the people who like seeing the word “kill” in a sentence. Our stance on guns should be clear: guns are destroying our inner cities and wreaking havoc upon our nation. The second amendment is about the militia, not a crack dealer.
- Our stance on terrorism should be clear: we have acted inappropriately through the years and thus have created an entire group of people that are willing to die because they hate us so much. Killing more of them only reinforces and builds that hatred. It is time to recognize our mistakes, determine why we are hated, and take actions that decrease that hatred. That is simply the only way we will defeat terrorism.
- John Kerry did everything he could to not look like a liberal. So did Al Gore. It didn’t matter. We can’t run from it. If we do, all that happens is that we are called liberals AND flip-floppers.
(2) We have ceded moral authority to the Republicans. Given the absolute certainty that we are the sole occupants of the moral high ground (among the two major parties), I have no idea how this could have happened.
- Our answer to abortion must be straightforward and clear: we do not like it. We hate it. Who would like it? However, we live in a world where difficult choices sometimes must be made. We simply cannot return to a society where the rich can fly to another country and the poor are forced into back alleys. So let’s work together to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Family planning IS the moral high ground. We should claim the “pro-life” moniker for ourselves by being pro-family, pro-child, anti-capital punishment, and anti-war.
- We also must make Americans understand the Biblical, religious, and moral significance of taking care of the Earth, our community, and each other.
- We cannot be against gay marriage. We must firmly commit to the institution and to the fact that we have gay couples living together and raising children as we speak. Denying them the benefits of marriage is not merely anti-gay; it is anti-child. This is not a “states rights” issue. It is a national issue, and we all know it. This is another example of Republican-lite. People who hate gays will never vote for us, regardless of what we say. That’s okay, we don’t want them anyway.
(3) We have ceded patriotism to the Republicans. “Peace is Patriotic” is not enough. We have got to demonstrate that good communities, schools, and jobs are just as valuable as a new jet fighter. Republicans have three apple pie issues: gays, god, and guns. We need to choose our apple pie issues and scream them from the mountaintops. If we stick to our message we will begin to win back the flag.
(4) It is stunning that we are now seen as the Elitist party while the Republicans have somehow cultivated an image of being of and for the people. George W. comes across as being an ordinary, average guy who would rather drink a beer on his ranch than read a book and listen to opera. Al Gore and John Kerry were the opposite. We simply must have a candidate who can connect with people of all walks of life (Bill Clinton was perfect). I am not sure we can ever win another election with an intellectual who comes across as better than thou or intellectually superior. Sadly, most Americans no longer consider intelligence a key characteristic in our President. We must recognize this reality. That does not mean that we choose an idiot to run; merely, our choice must be able to connect to regular people.
(5) We must retake the media. CNN should not be trying to figure out how to be more like Fox. They should be trying to figure out how to be more like Mother Jones. We know the facts. We have got to get the mainstream media to hammer those facts, over and over and over again, into the minds of Americans.
(6) We must give up on white males. The ones that will vote for us will vote for us. The ones who watch Nascar religiously, believe guns and hatred of gays are their god given right, and dream of owning a Hummer, are lost. We need to reclaim women, and make an absolute, dedicated, concerted effort to get minorities, especially African Americans, to the polls. John Kerry won a vast majority of the African American vote, and we know that a few million more would have changed the result of the election. It is inexcusable for women to believe that W. stands for Women or that there is any chance he would actually keep their children safer. We must choose our audience carefully and cultivate our customers well.
(7) It is time to slap America across the face. We must drive home that we need to look inside ourselves and determine if we are really happy. Do we really think we are moving in the right direction? Do we really want to live in a world with crumbling infrastructure, deteriorating schools, increasing debt, more and more cultural wars, and less tolerance, respect, and honor? Where are we going? Why are we so afraid all of the time? If the Republicans are hell bent on becoming the Party of fear and hate, then let’s drive home that we can offer an alternative of inclusiveness and respect. If we can convince people that we can deliver, I am profoundly confident that we are the party Americans will choose.
(8) It is time to clarify that Republicans are not about personal responsibility and Democrats are about government control. We are about personal responsibility. We cannot tolerate living in a country where a person works three jobs but cannot afford health care for his family. We cannot look like the Democrats of old; we must cultivate a new image that connects personal responsibility with the need for some reasonable guarantees.
(9) We must become the Free Market Party. Let’s take the Republicans’ free market arguments and use them to our advantage. We need to become the party of less government intrusion – tax incentives, subsidies, and loopholes for large corporations and industries must end. We need to do the math and tell the story in dollars. Hit people right in the pocketbook.
- We can link environmental improvements to economic advancement. We know gasoline costs society somewhere between $8 and $14 a gallon, when we factor in all of the unintended, but very real, costs. We must convince Americans that this IS what they currently are paying for our car-based society. Let renewables compete on that playing field, and let’s see how they measure up.
- Free markets would dictate that housing criminals is far more expensive than preventing crime.
- Free markets would insist that preventative health care would save significant dollars versus our current health care environment.
I do favor a multi-party system, but for now, it is clear that we only have two. However, if we do not take swift and powerful steps and change our direction entirely in the very near future, it will become increasingly likely that we only will have one.