Monday, July 24, 2017

"Better Deal" may be a better strategy

An interesting article in The Atlantic reveals that Democrats have come up with a strategy to take back Congress (or at least part of it) in the 2018 elections. "Better Deal" appears to be a real step forward, one that could, conceivably, be successful.

In all of the post-mortems on the 2016 elections, the one aspect that has chimed true repeatedly is the Democrats' disconnect with working-class and lower-middle-class voters. Democrats did not even know Michigan and Wisconsin were vulnerable to GOP appeals until votes were cast. Too many Democratic political strategists never looked beyond Manhattan or the District of Columbia. 

"Better Deal" will offer a much more populist slant than Democrats have offered recently. Bernie Saunders, whose populism lapped over into socialism, sparked excitement among many Democrats in 2016, but the cards were stacked against him. Even Obama's 2008 "Yes We Can" slogan is not populist in the way of "Better Deal," which hearkens back to FDR's "New Deal" and Truman's "Fair Deal." A more populist tone on health care, jobs, anti-trust legislation, fair wages, tax fairness and other issues could resonate with the mostly white, less-educated, hard-working but falling behind, largely forgotten voters who swarmed to Trump rallies with their empty promises and angry insults.

As Democrats such as Chuck Schumer have realized, Democrats need to appeal to that broad spectrum of the electorate who wanted what Trump was selling. Democrats can retake this constituency they once owned by adopting clearly defined principles and goals. Among these should be affordable health care (even if it means cracking down on excesses by the pharmaceutical industry, health insurers and hospitals); restrictions on the size and monopolistic practices of major banks and other corporations; tax law that is simplified and fair at all levels (not slanted toward the super rich and big corporations); public education within everyone's reach teaching history, civics and national pride; treatment for drug addiction (whether it is opioid pain relievers, marijuana or other drugs); strong but fair law enforcement, federal policy that respects science and research; and a return to federalism that respects state sovereignty but is unafraid to step in and to do bold things, such as the Interstate Highway system or the Apollo program.

In doing this, Democrats must steer clear of their tendency to over-regulate. They responded to the 2008 financial crisis by passing Dodd-Frank, which has made closing on a mortgage a paperwork nightmare with each little step strictly prescribed and backed by federal prosecutors. These regulations did nothing to prevent the big banks' gambles with mortgage securities and their no-document mortgages.

Unfortunately, Democrats in recent years have too often relied on dividing the electorate into special-interest groups and setting party agendas aimed at attracting as many interest groups as possible. Meanwhile, disenchanted voters watched big conglomerates destroy their small-town retailers and shut down the factories that provided a decent (but bare) living for generations. Stores disappeared, jobs disappeared, and self-respecting laid-off workers had nowhere go.

Democrats (in fact all of America) must not abandon civil rights and justice. They can still appeal to racial minorities, immigrants, gays, lesbians and transgenders. Political correctness has silenced any criticism or perceived slights of these groups. Thus, a candidate who responded to a Black Lives Matter question by saying "All lives matter" was booed vociferously. At some colleges, conservative speakers are shouted down or assaulted in the name of "free speech." Persons in this country illegally cannot be called "illegal immigrants," though, clearly, their status is illegal. A fair and reasonable immigration policy must protect U.S. jobs and culture while providing procedures for foreigners who wish to become Americans and can contribute to the American economy and security.

A "Better Deal" strategy can win, but it will mean making a sharp turn from Democrats' trajectory of the past few elections. Republicans, meanwhile, may help Democrats if the GOP continues on its trajectory of prescribing tax cuts for the wealthy for any problem the nation faces and ignoring the needs of the very people Democrats ignored in 2016


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