November 8th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
Four years of political conflict and division are coming to a closure — or, at least, transitioning. The Democratic Party just accomplished goal #1, #2, and #3 politically — get Donald Trump out of office. However, some of the 2020 results were disappointing. I follow politics and policy extremely closely. I consider it a democratic duty. Plus, I’m just drawn to it. While I think the Democratic Party did many things very well in the past few years, and I have mad respect for the Biden campaign, I see many things that I think we have been mediocre at (at best). So, below are 10 suggestions for the Democratic Party moving forward (even thought no one asked me for them).
1. Talk Economy, Economy, Economy — Democrats Are Better On The Economy, But We Don’t Talk About It
As I wrote before the election, history shows that Democrats do better with the economy. That’s because their policies — focused on boosting the middle class and the least privileged — are better at helping the economy grow. The #1 Republican policy is cutting taxes on the über rich, with the false promise of tremendous economic growth that will make up for that … but then never does.
There are other matters related to the economy that Republican politicians are also on the wrong side of. For example, Republican politicians don’t want any regulation of polluting industries, but requiring companies to not cause cancer in thousands or hundreds of thousands of people actually leads to innovation that leads to more jobs, global technological leadership, and a better economy.
Somehow, though, the general consensus is that Republicans are better on the economy. It’s a false narrative that stems from messaging/communications, not reality. Democrats should shift the narrative.
2. Talk Jobs, Jobs, Jobs — Democrats Create More Jobs
Clean energy, electric vehicles, and other innovation industries create more jobs. Democrats have stronger policies to support better paying jobs with more benefits. Talk about it!
— Rage is a Climate Change activist🏴☠️🏴☠️🇺🇸 (@Bill19300155) October 27, 2020
3. The Democratic Party Is A Zoo
There’s a natural tendency to think that the Democratic Party should be exactly what you think it should be. It is not, and it never will be. Both major US political parties are huge, which means that they bring together very diverse people, including very ideologically diverse people. There is absolutely no case where anyone should assume their policy preferences are universal.
The Lincoln Project is a group of former and existing Republicans who feel like they no longer belong in the Republican Party. They feel like the Trump Party has betrayed practically all of their ideals, because it has. They have been working hard to unseat Trump, but also Republicans who fell in line with Trump’s unconstitutional, anti-democratic, authoritarian, non-conservative approach to governance. Many in the Democratic Party are now attacking them. That’s stupid, in my opinion. I favor very progressive policies — very progressive — but the more people you can form a cooperative, friendly coalition with, the better. We share the same fundamental ideals of a democratic nation and individual freedom as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. Build on that — don’t trash it.
Yes, the Democratic Party includes a lot of people who want Medicare for All and a lot of people who are scared to death of it. Without both groups of people, Donald Trump would be walking into a second term. In fact, if those two groups hadn’t been on their best behavior and worked very hard to keep infighting to a minimum, Donald Trump would be walking into a second term. In my opinion, no side of the party should be trying to crush opposition in the other side. Let people follow their passions and make their cases to their constituencies, and be upfront with everyone that nothing happens unless a majority of politicians can get behind something based on who they represent and what they believe in. Keep any heated debates internal. You can have private Zoom calls if you want to yell at each other, but they shouldn’t spill out into the media or social media.
These are just a few of the issues in which there’s a huge diversity in views. When you have 74 million people vote for one candidate, you’re pulling in a lot of people with a lot of different views. To think that 40 million should force the other 34 million to align with them is idiotic. Either make your case well enough that you can basically unify around the issue or temper your expectations.
By the way, this recommendation goes both ways. Lincoln Project people and moderate Democrats need to STFU in public about more left-leaning policy preferences if they really want to be heard and seen as part of the party, and strong progressives shouldn’t be attacking them in public either. Make your case for why your policy preference is so good — again and again and again — without resorting to what are essentially superficial smear campaigns.
4. Focus On State Politics More
The American people find Democratic policy preferences much more appealing than Republican policy preferences. You can see this play out in plenty of ballot measures, where Democratic policies often win in even red-leaning states. However, Republicans dominate state political positions. Unfortunately, this has many ramifications.
More Democrats need to settle for and be motivated to campaign and organize on the state (and local) level.
5. Organize — On. The. Ground.
Social media is warping reality and tearing our society apart. Each of us gets quickly funneled into a silo based on previous activity. In that silo, anyone is free to toss around just about any amount of nonsense they want, and they do. But that is still a strange, secluded online world. If we can meet with people in the real world and talk about important topics with them — listening as well as sharing — we can create true change.
Republicans did surprisingly well in this past election, in large part because they had a much better ground game. They were knocking on doors. Where Democrats did this, like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia, they performed well.
6. Get Off Social Media!
This is sort of the same, but not really. Being active on social media makes us more informed on some matters, makes us feel engaged, riles up the base about emotional topics, and acts as a cathartic sedative. We feel like we did something, so we don’t feel like we need to do more out in the world of flesh and bones. And it’s just a time suck! Who are you influencing on social media? Think about it. Probably no one. Yet soooooo much time is spent there.
It is useful to get context and facts regarding top-trending stories. So, I guess it’s not ideal to toss it 100%, but perhaps setting a 30 minute slot for it every day would be useful. The problem with that, from my perspective, is that 30 minutes can quickly transform into many more. Whatever your personality, though, if you want to help create social change, have a plan to make sure Twitter, Facebook, reddit, TikTok, or whatever is hot these days doesn’t take up too much of your time.
7. Messaging — Learn From Bernie
I don’t care what you think about his policy preferences, Bernie is by far the best messager in the Democratic Party. Bernie who? No one has to ask, of course. Bernie focuses on 1–3 core matters that are the crux of his argument on a topic and he hammers them home every — freakin’ — day. He finds the absolute best arguments for his policy preferences and he hits repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. Democrats don’t like to do this, because they like to dig into nuance and details and stipulations and caveats and blah, blah, blah. Fine, do that with your colleagues behind closed doors — that’s important! Or do it in very specific policy wonk corners of the public sphere. But if you want to swing people to your side, you need to act like master marketers, branders, people who know how to deliver a message and sink it into everyone’s brains.
8. Campaign 365 Days A Year, Every Year
Many people have been astounded that such a failure of a president got 70 million votes in the election this past week. However, there is one thing he did superbly well that I haven’t seen anyone else do. He campaigned nonstop. He started holding rallies for 2020 right after he was elected in 2016. He was constantly on Twitter and on TV. Okay, no one should be as extreme as he has been, but political activists cannot assume that it’s enough to check in once in a while with a boring speech and think that people are going to pay attention to what you or your preferred political actors are doing. People need rolling, entertaining updates on what you are accomplishing and why.
Obama accomplished a great deal, but few people can name something he did that they liked — because he didn’t blast it out there to normal people. It may seem like creative communications and entertainment are important tasks for an elected official, but in 2020, they most certainly are.
9. Debunk Myths & Misleading Attacks … The Right Way!
It seems that everyone and their mother needs to learn how to effectively debunk myths.
10. Don’t Indulge In Culture War
“Culture war” has become a huge part of American politics, and I think it has gotten to be quite a counterproductive force.
No doubt about it, there are several cultural issues that need to be resolved. Systemic racism and police brutality are especially important matters to talk about and tackle. Black lives matter — and that message should be communicated clearly and peacefully indefinitely. More importantly, policies need to be put into place to root out racism and repair the harms done from enslaving Black people not that long ago and not giving them full rights until just about 50 years ago.
However, “cancel culture” has driven many people a bit crazy. We can strive for better ideals without shaming people like a 9th century nun for every transgression they make. There are policy matters that need to be dealt with on a number of matters related to prejudice and inequality, but they generally should not be what most people think about when they think about the Democratic Party.
Obviously, there is no “war on Christmas,” but many people on the right think there is. Obviously, it is not a crime to be a white male, but many on the right feel like that’s what they’re being told. Celebrate diversity and compassion without resorting to shame and demonization.
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