The Democrats Need a Message, and Fast
It is easy to imagine that the Republican party is in crisis: the President becomes more toxic every day and their legislative agenda appears permanently stalled. Nobody can deny that their position has weakened since the election, but the Democratic party finds itself in a far more difficult situation.
The challenges the party faces right now:
- A 24 seat uphill battle to retake a thin majority in the House, a chamber Democrats have not controlled the since. A leadership change appears imminent as well, a process which will certainly incur the effectiveness and continuity of the caucus.
- Maintaining or improving their Senate prospects in an election cycle that heavily favors Republicans
- Capturing a host of Governorships across the nation, a tally they currently trail 26 to 34
- Retaking control of at least some of the 68 state legislatures controlled by Republicans in time for the 2020 redistricting process
One might argue, perhaps correctly, that the deficit is insurmountable. Democrats are clearly disadvantaged in the 2018 Senate race, Republicans continue to out-raise them despite Trump's early stumbles, and an emerging sect of the left dedicated to political violence and the elimination of free speech threatens to define the progressive movement for years to come.
The Left needs a concerted message from party leadership which offers a vision for the country. That is all. I am not saying that it is easy, but the reality of today is that the Republican party has dominated the political landscape and discourse for the last 4 or so years.
What does the Left stand for right now? Try to answer that question. The Democratic party says one thing, the runner-up to the 2016 nomination says another, the media says something entirely different.
Right now being a Democrat means clever anti-Trump jokes on late night talk shows - not a progressive take on an outdated healthcare system. Right now being a Democrat means complaining that Paul Ryan hasn't already changed the long-standing dress code in the house of Representatives - not proposing an alternative tax structure which spurs business while demanding that our highest earners take on a greater burden. And perhaps worst of all, being a Democrat means being associated with Antifa, a deplorable, violence-driven hate group who terrorize right-wingers attempting to exercise their free-speech rights - not an advocate for the central tenets of American democracy and a decent society.
This is not to say the party itself has gone bad. Plenty of Democrats have vision for the future, but who is selling it?
The leadership knows there is a problem. Before releasing the "Better Deal," economic plan last month, Chuck Schumer told the Washington Post "People didn't know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that." But nothing has changed.
When Democratic lawmakers and party officials go on TV, they rail Trump. They express "deep concern," hint at inside knowledge of Russia collusion, or subtly indicate that Republican colleagues are getting more and more uncomfortable. As Victor Hanson wrote for National Review, "Its interests are not so much political as cultural. True to its new media identity, the Democratic party is against anything Trump rather than being for something."
That approach wins precisely zero votes in the 2018 midterms.
We need to hear about what progressives want for the country, we need to hear about jobs, money out of politics, wall-street reforms, an immigration plan, a tax plan, a health care plan. The list is endless. Right now, the Democratic party has nothing, because it doesn't matter what you say unless somebody can hear it.
If the Democrats want to make inroads in 2018 and have a meaningful chance at stalling the Right's agenda, they need a message.