Why can’t democrats win in the age of Trump?
When the man in the White House has approval ratings in the low 30s, why aren’t we sweeping these special elections? I have a few thoughts
First of all, if we are going to beat the Republicans we have to find candidates with some legislative experience. They don’t have to be career politicians, but should have sat for office at some level. The Democratic Party spent millions on a race in Georgia for a candidate who had never sat for office at any level. Ossoff was a documentary filmmaker. He was not a politician and at the end it showed.
In North Carolina, we have the same problem. I have not met the two candidates running for the 10th district seat against Patrick McHenry yet, but from what I’ve seen from their social media, we are in big trouble. Neither has any name recognition, nor again, any political experience. I’m sure they’re both nice guys and they are smart, but Patrick McHenry is an incumbent that is very popular among his constituents. He has a high profile role in Washington and a deep war chest. You can’t expect the high school JV to win against the Yankees. The same principle applies here.
Second, our candidates are speaking over the heads of the people they want to elect them. It is nice to have an eloquent speaker who knows what they’re talking about, but they need to be able to connect with people far less educated than they are and they need to speak plain and simple. They don’t need to change the message, just the way it is delivered. I found Ossoff off putting myself. He seemed very smug and it came through in his interviews. This is the South. Polished only takes you so far here. Competence with story telling is a good place to start. Two people come to mind when I think about candidates that really connected with people. Sam Ervin, with his humble, “I’m just a simple country lawyer” attitude got him elected repeatedly in North Carolina. Up North I think of Joe Biden. Uncle Joe can tell a story and make you cry. Presentation matters. You don’t need to put on. You don’t need to be something you’re not. You do have to connect though and if you have nothing in common with your constituents you are less likely to win elections.
Finally, know the issues that are most important to your constituents and pound away at them. National issues are always important, but if you’re not concerned with infrastructure, streets and water lines, if you’re not familiar with the educational struggles in the community and don’t have a plan to improve them, if you’re not talking about the lack of funding for local hospitals, or getting more funding for child care, whatever the pressing issues are right there in the district no amount of logical argument on larger issues is going to mean anything. Someone who comes to mind here in my area is Robert Kellogg. He is very connected to what is happening in Gastonia and that gets him elected every time.
None of these are sure things, but they couldn’t hurt considering democrats reputation for being out of touch and elitist. If we don’t change the way we present our ideas we are going to become more and more irrelevant in the governing process. Don’t hear me saying change our stance on issues important to democrats. Hell no. But we have to do a better job at communication. It is essential we find candidates skilled at doing this or we will lose our opportunity in 2018. Too much is at stake here. We can’t drop the ball. We need to get to work.
And for God sake pick a candidate that lives in the damned district!