Donald Trump and Republicans seem to have only two tools to drive voters out to vote for them. Lies and fear. If one was to remove everything that Trump said throughout his campaign that was either a lie about how wonderful life would be for everyone if he became president or a lie about how terrifying life would be if he lost, everything else he said could fit on a gum wrapper…with the gum still in it.
It should be condemned when politicians use lies to scare Americans to vote against what’s best for them and the country. However, using fear, which is the most powerful tool to move voters one way or another, is not inappropriate when that fear is legitimate.
When the ACA was passed in 2010, Republicans once again ratcheted up their campaign of lies to frighten voters and manipulate them into voting for Republicans. Obamacare will create death panels that will decide if you live or die, it would destroy the healthcare system in the country, it would devastate the economy and kill millions of jobs, it will give government control over your health decisions, on and on. And the political terrorism they employed worked, they won back control of the House and narrowed Democrat control of The Senate…not to mention winning across the country in state and local elections. It was a landslide victory for Republicans.
Now it’s the Democrats turn for that kind of election…if they’re not afraid of using fear.
Fear in itself is not bad or good, it depends on the context. If it’s a fiction to manipulate people, it’s destructive. If it’s legitimate and used to warn people of danger, it’s constructive. Fear can keep us from doing things that could harm us or drive us to change something that represents a threat.
Democrats should not shy away from strongly using the legitimate fear that Trump and Congressional Republicans are generating in most Americans, with their assaults on all Americans’ ability to have affordable and meaningful health care. There are many other issues such as Trump’s threats of nuclear war with North Korea, slashing important government and social programs, taking government apart, etc., that inspire fear too. However, the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) should apply here. Nothing has hammered home the threat that Trump and the Republicans in Congress represent to the American people than the AHCA because taking away, increasing the cost of or hollowing out the health care that every American has is most powerful, immediate and personal.
After the non-partisan CBO report comes out with their scoring on the AHCA, which can only be more disastrous than the initial version, Democrats will have their primary weapon to carry against Republicans into the 2018 election. It will highlight the nightmare that awaits Americans at the hands of Republicans and Trump. Adding to that will be the continuing analysis from other sources and the opposition including every major medical and social welfare group. All of these should be part of the ongoing campaign by Democrats to convince voters that Democrats need to regain power in one or both houses of Congress to stop Trump and the Republicans.
It is encouraging that ads have already started coming out against the House Republicans who voted for the AHCA. Democrats need to be as unflinching and aggressive in expressing the legitimate fear that Americans should feel about the attacks being committed and planned against them by Republicans in government.
Though many on the Left have railed against the use of fear to win elections, when fears are justified, they shouldn’t be avoided.
This is a proven strategy that can work well in an off year election, nationalizing it which is needed to have the kind of landslide that sweeps out Republicans who have been deeply rooted into their seats.
In 2020, Democrats will need to have a positive message to counter the smouldering destruction of Trump’s term. The argument then will need to be about repairing the damage Trump caused to the nation and its democracy and bringing back competence, honesty and concern for bettering the lives of all Americans. But in 2018, the ongoing threat that Trump and Republicans represent (and will have represented) and the fear that Americans have over having their healthcare system destroyed (just to give the wealthy ANOTHER tax cut) will be the most potent and real fear Americans feel and focusing on that as well as presenting a sensible solution to fix healthcare sure seem like a winning formula.