Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, June 22, 23 or 24
This year in Washington, Extreme Schemes are sputtering. Washington Republicans have an agenda, but they’ve shown little skill in governing after spending eight years obstructing the Obama administration rather than producing much. The Democratic Party must avoid such foolishness. Instead, it must remind people of its historic voice for regular Americans, and unite Clinton centrists and Sanders progressives in positions far different than corporate-cozy policies of recent years.
Once the champion of workers and the marginalized – farmers and Jews, Catholics and women, urban residents, seniors and more – too many Democrats for a couple of decades seemed to value keeping power instead of maintaining principles, moving toward big-money campaign contributions like moths to flames.
A post-election Global Strategy Group/Hart Research Associates survey shows that more people think Congressional Democrats favor the rich than think the same of Republicans (42 to 40 percent). So: Democrats are in lousy shape, and it’s their own fault.
Although many Monday-morning quarterbacks after November bemoaned the loss of the white working class, losses weren’t just whites, according to research by Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC. Young, minority and single voters fell from 2008 and 2012.
More telling: Millions of Obama supporters voted for Trump, many in the Midwest.
Priorities USA’s surveys also show a huge loss of Obama voters who didn’t vote in 2014 or 2016, according to author Thomas B. Edsall, a Columbia University professor and columnist.
They were “people of color (41 percent African-American, Hispanic, or Asian), young (22 percent under the age of 29), female (60 percent), and unmarried (46 percent single, separated, widowed or divorced),” he reported in the New York Times.
What are Democrats offering? It shouldn’t be – and never should have been – “We’re not as bad as Republicans.”
And they need to cultivate candidates to share a message. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. However -- whether interpreted as overconfident, arrogant or elitist – she was perceived to be an insider in a self-perpetuating system that stopped working for most of us.
“The Clinton campaign chose in the closing battle to ignore the economic stress not just of the working-class women who were still in play, but also of those within the Democrats’ own base, particularly among the minorities, millennials and unmarried women,” said Stan Greenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist. “The Democrats embraced the liberal values of America’s dynamic and best-educated metropolitan areas, seeming not to respect the values or economic stress of older voters in small-town and rural America.”
Despite dire fears about climate change and war in the current no-nothing, bullying administration, the political situation is not hopeless. For instance, but for manipulative redistricting by Republican-controlled state legislatures, Democrats would be more prominent in state and national offices. Data show that Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives got 1.3 million more votes than Republicans in the 2012 election, yet emerged with 33 fewer seats.
Meanwhile, the GOP became an outlier, comfortable with shutting down government, refusing to even hear a Supreme Court nominee, threatening people’s health-insurance coverage, impeding people voting, forsaking their devotion to fiscal conservatism, and settling for the inexperienced and authoritarian Trump.
The Democratic Party must proactively set itself apart with positive visions on issues that could benefit everyday Americans:
* Genuinely “establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” as the Constitution says.
* Protect opportunity, regardless of race or religion, gender or age, sexual preference or class.
* Push for full employment.
* Transform the temptation of isolationist foreign affairs into a passionate desire for world peace.
* Care for the world we share, contrasting not only with Trump’s abandonment of the Paris Accords but the fossil-fuel industry’s influence (which lobbied George W. Bush to refuse to implement the Kyoto Protocols).
* Work for a better minimum wage than the current federal $7.25 an hour, empowering struggling low-wage Americans to become more active consumers, benefiting small businesses.
* Enact a “child allowance,” a small stipend for households to more easily raise the next generation, like other advanced countries.
Of course, immediately, such ideals will run into the Republican Roadblock. However, such goals and ideas promise to resonate with the public in preparation for a common future, whether 2018 or the next decade.
The past can be a guide, if Democratic Party leaders take a refresher on their predecessors.
[PICTURED: Graphic from At Pretium Libertatis.]