In this strange and unsettling political season, it’s hard to know what voters really want to hear, or what they’re looking for from their elected representatives. This is especially true for Democrats running in moderate or conservative states and districts: What are the messages that we should be taking to the people?
In any regional campaign, local issues will always play a role, of course. And hot-button issues like abortion, guns, and immigration will always get voters’ blood boiling. But generally speaking, what are the issues and messages that will connect with mainstream Americans and lead Democrats to victory in November?
Here are our choices for the five most important issues for Democrats:
- The dysfunctional Republican Party
- Political and financial reforms
- Helping the American worker
- The growing inequality between rich and poor
- The consequences of conservatism
Over the next few posts, we’ll discuss each one in detail. All of these are subjective, of course, and we’d be interested in hearing your own choices for top Democratic issues. (And of course they can always change in coming months depending on events and circumstances).
Remember that Democrats should never talk about issues without talking about values. Each of these issues should be dressed in the positive messages of patriotism, American values like fairness and equality, and the exceptionalism of our country, so that you reach your listeners emotionally as well as intellectually. And for each issue, Democrats should be sure to starkly contrast the Democratic stance with that of conservatives.
ISSUE #1: The Republican Party
Yes, it’s odd that the opposing party should be the top winning issue for Democrats, but of course Donald Trump makes it inevitable. But Democrats should emphasize that the problems of Republicans go far beyond Trump. (A recent CBS/New York Times poll, by the way, found that only 28% of Americans view the Republican Party favorably. There is no better time to attack.)
- The Republican Party is completely dysfunctional. Its agenda is mean-spirited, hurtful, and destructive. The once Grand Old Party has descended into anger, pessimism, and even cruelty.
- Because of its virulent brand of ultraconservatism, it is no longer fit to govern America. It is unworthy of leading a great nation. Its values are no longer those of the country we know and love.
- The rise of Donald Trump is not just wrong for America, it may literally be dangerous for America.
- Republicans are not the party of morality. Their policies show a shocking callousness:
- They give huge tax breaks to the rich while cutting foods stamps for the desperately poor. That’s immoral by any definition.
- They would take away health care from millions of people with nothing to replace it.
- They would send millions of immigrant children who grew up in America back to impoverished countries they may not even remember. They would deport families to poor countries where they have no jobs, housing, or relatives who can afford to support them.
- America is a country that tries to prevent humanitarian crises, not create them.
- As Americans, we cannot let our hearts be hardened by conservative rhetoric. We must hold true to our American traditions of compassion, generosity, and humanitarian values
- Republicans have proven themselves to be fiscally irresponsible.
- Twice before, under Reagan and Bush, their tax cut proposals have exploded the deficit. Now they want to do it again.
- Their tax cut proposals would put America on a starvation diet. It would devastate the poor and the quality of life we expect of a great nation.
- They shut down the government and threatened to destroy the nation’s credit.
- That’s not a policy of greatness. It’s a philosophy of diminishment, shrinkage, meanness of spirit, and short-term thinking.
- Their rash, aggressive, irresponsible warmongering would have us at war again within months of the election.
- The Republicans’ sad, heartless agenda for America must be not just rejected but overwhelmingly repudiated at the polls in November.
- The Democratic Party has shown steady, measured leadership. We tried to work across party lines until Republicans proved they had no interest in compromise.
- Despite that obstructionism, Democrats have continued fighting for laws that help average Americans lead better lives:
- Brought health insurance to millions of Americans who couldn’t afford it
- Curbed the worst abuses of the credit card industry.
- Created an agency to protect consumers from financial fraud and predatory practices.
- Stood by American workers by supporting unions and the minimum wage.
- Democrats have kept America safe while keeping us out of another full-scale war.
- Achieved several major successes against ISIS without American troops
- Negotiated to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons without resorting to military strikes
- Increased drone strikes on terrorists
- Managed to get chemical weapons out of Syria without firing a shot, while preventing the chaos of regime collapse and a power vacuum, which ISIS was in the best position to take advantage of
Other posts in this series: