So far, the answer to that question is NOTHING. Yesterday’s losses in Georgia and South Carolina are being spun by Democrats as not all that bad. The rationale is that even though the Democratic candidates lost, those losses were by slim margins.
In Georgia, the most expensive congressional race in the history of the country, Joel Ossoff lost by 3.8 percent. Cause to celebrate? Not to me. A loss is a loss, and no amount of spin negates that cold, hard fact.
Here’s a novel idea: If you’re going to go into a solid red district to stage an upset, instead of going in as Republican light, how about going full bore FDR? At least then you will give people a real choice. Because why vote for Republican light when you can have the real thing?
Ossoff campaigned cautiously and avoided giving support to single payer, raising taxes on the wealthy and tuition free college. But you know what? People in red states want healthcare. Donald Trump campaigned on that, promising that EVERYONE would be covered and it would be better care for less money. People in red states want the wealthy to pay their fare share. Again, isn’t that one of the things Donald Trump campaigned on? He bashed those Goldman Sachs people right up until he peppered his cabinet with them. People in red states want tuition-free college, as evidenced by the recent passage of tuition-free community college in Tennessee.
I know the arguments that say going in with a truly progressive message is a losing proposition. Maybe so. But going in as a right leaning centrist hasn’t worked out so well, has it?
In South Carolina, the Democratic candidate Archie Parnell lost by 3.2 percent. Parnell received virtually no support from the national party and yet, his margin was slimmer than Ossoff’s. His platform included populist ideas that appeal across party lines: corporations paying their fair share of taxes, the importation of cheaper drugs, investment in infrastructure, conservative use of military force, and equal pay for equal work. Maybe, just maybe, if Democrats had given him the support he needed, he might have overcome the Republican.
Ah, the argument goes, but just look at Montana. Rob Quist was a progressive and he was trounced by a guy who body-slammed a reporter. Perhaps if Quist had more than token support from the Democratic Party, he would have fared better. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $5.8 million on the Ossoff race and just $340,000 on Quist. Quist lost that race by 6 points. To be fair, progressives did bolster his war chest by raising over $6 million. It would have been nice if the DCCC had stepped in with visits from prominent Democrats, and that may have made a difference. Maybe some advice on campaign ads would have helped. Quist is a local country singer, not a politician, so he didn’t exactly have campaign chops. In the end, campaigning against Trump policies more than for the progressive values stated in his platform proved to be a losing tactic.
There is a reason why people don’t turn up at the polls. There is a reason why people think both parties are the same – even though that is a false assumption, since Republicans are hell bent on dismantling every regulation they can: even if it means despoiling the environment in favor of corporate interests; even if it means kicking people off of health care; even if it means relaxing workplace safety rules; even if it means tanking the economy so they can continue to fund endless wars, while stuffing more money into the pockets of the fabulously wealthy. while literally taking food out of the mouths of children.
If Democrats stand together and support candidates who give people real choices and offer real solutions rather than a bunch of empty rhetoric; if Democrats inspire people instead of trying to scare them with the boogeyman of the other guy; if Democrats go out there and actually explain to people how progressive policies will make a positive impacts on their lives, then maybe Democrats will walk out of the wilderness they now find themselves in. Democrats must stop viewing the United States in terms of which states are red and which are blue when it comes to lending a hand to candidates. There should be no “flyover” states. Every. State. Counts.
After the 2016 election, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she didn’t think people wanted a new direction. In the face of a crushing loss to Donald Trump (and never mind that Hillary Clinton got nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, she lost the election), that rationale is just plain stupid and a sure-fire recipe for continued losses.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party just keeps on winning even though the actions they take are detrimental to the population at large, to the environment, to the debt, to national security and to the standing of the United States in the world.
Democrats are counting on discontent with Donald Trump and the Republican Congress to hand them substantial wins in the 2018 mid-terms. Given what we’ve seen so far, that seems like a slim hope at best. It is time to decide what the Democratic Party stands for. It is time to circle the wagons, hammer out a unifying strategy and go out there and sell it to the American people. If they can’t do that, then what the hell good are they?
Ann Werner is the author of thrillers and other things. Show her some love and check out her books!
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