Three Better Ideas Than Throwing the Base Under the Bus for the Democrats

Being irrelevant is hard. With President Obama now off giving speeches at the University of Chicago in his post-presidency, Democratic leaders in Washington are left to wonder what to do. They don’t hold power in either house of Congress. They don’t hold the White House. They don’t even hold the courts, really. They’re way behind out in the states. The party in Washington is basically a collection of aging members of Congress who represent base district. In short, the party holds little to no relevancy right now. Their brilliant idea to get some relevancy back? Go on a unity tour where the second-place finisher from 2016’s primaries basically says what’s wrong with the DNC, and the DNC Chair stands there and gets boo’ed. Folks, this isn’t good branding.

So now that we’ve wasted a week debating whether or not it’s okay for Bernie to campaign with Heath Mello, a State Senator from Omaha, Nebraska who co-sponsored a “forced-ultrasound” bill there because he’s “pro-life,” let’s have an honest talk about some better ideas than discrediting our party leadership on a national tour and dragging the base of our party (women, African-Americans, Latinos, etc.) through the mud. I have three ideas that would be better than anything they are doing right now:

  1. Fight for voting rights. Yes, this is obvious, but we’re not discussing it because we’re discussing if forced ultrasounds are okay. Democrats would have carried Wisconsin, probably for President and Senate, had “Voter ID” not been the law there. Even if 10% of the estimated 300,000 people harmed by the bill had been able to vote, Hillary probably would have won the state (30,000 votes would have put her over the top). Cuts to the early vote in Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina, and changes to voting locations in Arizona could all be blamed in some part for Democratic declines there. Pennsylvania and Michigan have some of the most restrictive rules on voting, basically making absentee balloting difficult, and the elections basically a one day affair. Fighting for access to the ballot is not an overly ideological, left-right type of fight, but it is a right-wrong kind of fight. Democrats should take it up, because it would cast them in a whole lot better light than they’ve been in.
  2. Put forward progressive tax reform. You want an increased government role in paying for health care or college education? You have to change the discussion of “big government” programs and their relation to taxes. Democrats should put forward a plan that transfers much of the tax burden off of the middle-class, and transfers it towards wealth. Give people $20–30,000 of tax free income, eliminate or increase the cap on the payroll tax that funds Social Security, eliminate loopholes to hide money off shore and eliminate tax incentives for behavior that we don’t prefer businesses to do- like outsourcing. If Democrats want the public to trust them on big-ticket budget items like single-payer health care, show them that we are not the party of taxing them to death- they might listen after.
  3. Stop worrying about “unity” tours and start worrying about upcoming elections. Unity tours don’t win elections. They make people in DC feel relevant, and they make people in the states feel happy, but really they don’t matter. They cost money too, and divert the attention from actual candidates to national figures who aren’t going to be a part of any sort of “Democratic comeback” this Fall. Put the attention on state legislative candidates in New Jersey and Virginia (especially in challenge seats), put the attention on people running for Governor in those states, even put the attention on people running for major Mayor’s offices and city councils. Trying to argue for unity with a hard-line pro-life Dem in Omaha is much harder than arguing that “we need some damn wins in 2017.” With highlighting local candidates out in the states, you avoid the bad optics of the DNC Chairman being boo’ed in swing-state Nevada. When you highlight judicial candidates in Pennsylvania or city council candidates in Los Angeles, you also can keep the focus on things we want to be part of our message, rather than national debates that should have no party in the 2018 races.

I’m not the DNC Chairman, I’m just a lowly state party member, but I think that even just doing these three things would cast Democrats in a much better, more acceptable light than the things we’re doing right now. The things we’re doing right now frankly are more destructive than good.