Special Elections: I Don’t Believe In Moral Victories

This past weekend, I traveled to South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District to campaign with Archie Parnell. Block by block, fish fry by fish fry, Archie and I spoke with voters about the importance of sending a Democrat to Congress and being one step closer to winning back the House in 2018. But as I watched the election results trickle in from South Carolina and Georgia, a feeling of déjà vu began to set in. Oh no, not again.

Archie Parnell and Jon Ossoff were good candidates who ran solid campaigns. They had fired up activists working very long days. They worked hard and did everything they could, but in the end, they were brought down by the national Democratic Party brand. I’m tired of the excuses, and I’m tired of being told that we exceeded expectations. I don’t believe in moral victories. The only measure of success in political campaigns is victory. I don’t believe everyone should get a trophy. Here is the the truth: the Democratic Party has a toxic brand, one that is worse than Donald Trump’s in many parts of the country. According to a CBS News poll, only 31 percent of voters believe a Democratic Congress would make their lives better. It makes me sick to my stomach that my party, that historically has done so much good, is seen as disconnected and out of touch with working class families.

Right now, we are just days away from Senate Republicans passing a callous and dangerous healthcare bill that will pull the rug out from under 23 million Americans. President Trump’s budget is a fiscal and moral disaster — taking a sledgehammer to valuable and effective programs that support the most vulnerable among us, scrapping programs that help keep our cities safe and grow the economy, and dismantling common-sense clean air and water protections that benefit everyone’s health and well-being.

My fear, which is one I’ve been sharing since November, is that in this time of unprecedented attacks on our American values by President Trump and Congressional Republicans, we’ve forgotten a fundamental truth: the Democratic Party is more than just an anti-Trump party. Unfortunately, that is mostly what the American people are hearing from us right now. Instead of responding with only anger to the Trump Administration, we need to be putting forth issues that bring more hope and optimism to working class families. People vote with their hopes and dreams — not their anger and hate.

We are heading into July, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but our party still doesn’t have a clear economic message. Are you kidding me?

While some in America are prospering, huge swaths of our country lack basic economic security in a changing global economy and are desperate for solutions to existential problems. Our party hears these cries for help, but we are doing a bad job getting our message out there. Frankly, people in the heartland are less concerned about Russia and Michael Flynn than they are about paying their monthly bills. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support the investigations and get to the bottom this. Of course we should. But we need to be just as determined to create an economy that works for everyone.

Democrats need to spend most of our time pushing an agenda that will get Americans back to work — not next year, not next week, but today. Democrats are the party to help American workers receive bigger paychecks and reduce their energy bill and the amount they have to spend on sick family members. We are the party that will hire construction workers and small businesses to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Democrats are the party to bring broadband and the Smart Grid to every corner of America. These are jobs that can’t be outsourced to China or Mexico. Our plan will directly hire Americans and pay them a living wage. Democrats are the party to transition our nation to renewable energy, ramping up solar and wind production — and hire Americans to manufacture these technologies.

We are the party that the will ensure every American has affordable, accessible healthcare. We are the party that will make vocational training and higher education more affordable so that every individual is empowered to live up to their God-given potential. We are the party that will guarantee every American can retire with security, stability, and dignity.

There are reasons to be hopeful about the future. Throughout the country, Democrats are standing up and demanding change. Our base is more energized and engaged than I have ever seen it. Organizations like Indivisible, Swing Left, Flippable, and the Townhall Project are working at the grassroots level to turn this energy into political action. We are seeing it with more and more people, especially women, running for local and state office. The Women’s March, the March for Truth, the Equality March for Unity and Pride, and countless other demonstrations prove our supporters are ready to do what it takes to fight for our values. It is time for national Democrats to step up and to make the changes needed to support and to enhance their efforts so we can take back Congress in 2018, and the White House in 2020.

While last night was discouraging, we cannot be discouraged. I am proud to be a member of the Democratic Party. I am proud of our values and beliefs. And I know we are the party of the future. Because of this, I will continue to urge the Democratic Party to examine all options to make sure we are in the best possible position to win, which at the end of the day is what it is all about.

So let’s get back out. It’s not how many times you get knocked down — life is about how many times you get back up.

Tim Ryan is Democratic Congressman representing Ohio’s 13th district. Join Tim’s fight for working people at timryanforcongress.com.