One of the unsurprising initial conclusions by the Democratic Establishment to Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump in November was, “We need to do a better job of reaching out to those who voted to Trump.”
Of course, there’s a common sense to it. Clearly, if some of those who helped one candidate win moved over to the other party’s candidate in the next election, they would instead win. However, considering that the core Trump supporters are under-educated, impervious to facts (unless they’re affirming “alternate facts”), and likely bigots, the only way to appeal to them would be to adopt the same repulsive views of Trump.
You can’t reason with people who are beyond reason. So write off the uneducated, rural rubes, they only want white, male authoritarians controlling the country and attacking the minorities they scapegoat for their feelings of helplessness to change their difficult lives (the real solution to their plight is education, not bigotry but they’re not educated enough to know that).
There is another slice of Trump supporters that came down with Trump fever in November, not hard core authoritarians but closet authoritarians who were also discouraged by the prospect of Hillary Clinton as a status quo establishment type. These ARE persuadable voters who foolishly voted with their insecurities, fear and other emotions instead of reason. Here too, my advice to the DNC and Democratic politicians is, don’t make upcoming campaigns about chasing after these voters. Instead, use the Field of Dreams approach, “If you build it, they will come.”
Even though many individual Democratic politicians are principled and connected to working people, the Democratic Party as an entity has lost touch with most Americans. The death grip that corporate/Wall Street Democrats have had on the party has strangled the life out of it, hence the lifelessness and failure of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the opening for Bernie Sanders to explode on the scene. These self-focused types have no more principles than their opponents, the ultimate goal for them stops at retaining power and enhancing their wealth. Sure, they espouse Democratic issues but it is in service of retaining their power.
This past Saturday, the DNC held an election for their new chairman. First, the backstory. Staunch Bernie supporter and very Progressive congressman Keith Ellison was the first substantial candidate to come forward and he was swiftly endorsed by top Dems including Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren and of course Bernie Sanders. Ellison looked like a slam dunk. And that’s when the Establishment Dems went into action, desperately casting about for a candidate to prevent Ellison and a change in the power structure of the party. Despite his resistance, ex-Civil Rights and Labor Secretary under President Obama, Tom Perez was convinced to be “their” candidate.
Perez seems like a good guy, for the most part, he shares most of Ellison’s positions on the issues but it can’t be ignored that it was not his idea to run for this position and that the Dem Establishment who did put him up as a candidate to protect their position and power, are owed his gratitude and deference. To illustrate how ruthless this Dem Establishment is, a vicious, unfounded smear campaign that had been sustained throughout the campaign by Dem Establishment types like Haim Saban, that Ellison was anti-Semitic and supported the destruction of Israel, was re-ignited just before the election by a conservative religious lobbying group (The American Jewish Council) and O.J. Simpson defender Alan Dershowitz. While many DNC members claim it didn’t influence their vote, most did say it shocked them and that they recognized it undermined Ellison’s closing of his campaign (exactly as FBI Director Comey did in his last minute attack against their candidate Hillary Clinton).
Perez won the chairmanship but made a smart tactical move of inviting Ellison to come on board as Deputy Chairman (a previously non-existent position that may or may not be superficial but intended in any case to assuage the resentments of Ellison supporters after his loss). Unity is critical but some Democrats don’t support the Dem Establishment’s continued domination of power behind the scenes after years of overseeing the losses of over 1,000 Dem seats nationally, The House, The Senate and the presidency. Some may have their suspicions that the DNC is still run by and for the same old corrupt cabal that simply installed a new chariman but one who still owes them for his position.
While Perez and Ellison have much in common, Perez did support the corporately-supported TPP while in office and supports the DNC once again taking contributions from lobbyists and corporations which Obama had banned (and Ellison wanted reinstated after Wasserman Schultz trashed the ban in 2016). One has to ask, if corporate and lobbyist money is pouring in again and happily taken by the DNC and Perez, just how much “change” will take place if it runs counter to the interests of lobbyists and Wall Street?
If a religious lobbyist can impact the DNC’s own election (and really, the Chairman of the DNC has the power to destroy Israel, that’s why he needed to be defeated?), isn’t it naive to think that they and other Big Money contributors won’t continue to influence future decisions by the DNC?
It may seem like I’ve gone off on a tangent here with the DNC election but to complete the circle, if the same power structure is in place in the DNC behind Perez as it was when the scale was tipped towards Hillary in the primaries, it is possible that in pursuit of regaining power, they may push the DNC in any direction they see as most advantageous for them, even more towards the right to pander to Trump voters. And considering that these entities are more conservative and that they and their most financed politicians are constantly squawking about how the party has been pulled too far to the left, it’s quite conceivable.
Maybe not though, maybe the Dem Establishment will recognize that harnessing the power of The Resistance is more advantageous and aligning with that powerful movement is a better bet in terms of their goals. The meme of re-connecting with working people was front and center in the DNC election so the way that is pursued is very important and interestingly, at odds with the financiers and power behind the DNC.
If Perez is able to act as he’s campaigned he would, it will be valuable for the party to be more open and welcoming to Progressives and independents. Supporting the issues that directly help most Americans as workers, consumers and families is what can also bring the tentative Trump voters back to voting for Dems. The point here is, just doing the right thing is all that’s required, it would be a big mistake to try and pander specifically to the blue collar Trump voters as opposed to all working voters. The Dems should build a tent that voters choose to step inside because it protects them. And somehow, they need to build it for the people despite the great pressure that the lobbyists, corporations and Dem Establishment will try to flex.
The huge mistake the Establishment Dems seemed to have made in 2016 was not realizing that they were living in a bubble, detached from real people and what they wanted to vote for. They seemed solely focused on how much they would gain from Hillary’s presidency and thought that they could just push her candidacy through in the end. They overlooked that if people aren’t enthusiastic about the candidate they push, they and everyone else they “represent”, loses. Sure, a powerful and wealthy entity can manufacture and put on the shelves a product that will enrich them if it’s successful but when they forget that people have to want to buy it, they set themselves up for failure (New Coke anyone?).
So Perez has his work cut out for him. He’ll need to prove that he and the DNC aren’t going to be dominated again by those still in power behind the scenes and that he’s willing to be in conflict with them for the sake of the people’s best interests. He’ll have to make it clear to Ellison/Bernie supporters and independent voters that despite the constant roaring of some Hillary supporters that they “aren’t real Democrats”, that they will be treated as “real Democrats” and equals in the party. He’ll have to follow through on the 50 state strategy and support local Dem races and state parties around the country. And he’ll have to repair the image of the DNC after it put its thumb on the scales in last year’s Presidential primary.
Most of all, Perez needs to help the Dems make an affirmative case for voting for Democrats. He’ll need to nationalize the races in 2018 as much as possible around the theme of, “If we can win the majority, this is specifically what we will work to accomplish for you, the people.” There will need to be a sprinkling of the natural desire of Americans to have a check on the Presidency, which a Dem controlled House and/or Senate would provide. But most of all, there should be a confidence in the principles of what most Democrats stand for as being sufficient to attract Trump voters back over, Democratic principles should not be compromised or moderated in a desperate ploy to appeal to Trump voters.
If you build it, they will come.