It may be tempting for Democrats to spend the entire four days of their convention just mocking Donald Trump, but Democrats must think bigger. With Republicans in disarray, now is the perfect time to create an expansive, big-picture message that will rally voters to the Democratic Party and help down-ballot candidates take back Congress. Beyond ridiculing Trump and praising Hillary Clinton at the convention, Democrats must convey three other critical messages to voters:
- Democrats are the only party of working people.
- Democrats are the true party of reform.
- Conservatism is dead.
Here are some specifics on how they can do that:
1. Democrats are the only party of working people.
How is it that Trump and the GOP are supposedly winning among white, working-class voters when Democrats have been fighting for American workers for a hundred years? The party has to tell that story! Since the turn of the 20th century, almost every significant improvement in the lives of American workers has come from Democrats:
- The 40-hour work week
- Social Security
- Paid vacations
- The first minimum wage
- Time and a half for overtime
- Unemployment insurance
- The right of women to join the workplace
- Affordable health care
Today we’re fighting as hard as ever for American workers, with proposals like raising the minimum wage, guaranteed sick pay, and affordable child care.
The contrast between the two parties is stark:
- Democrats support unions, so workers have a voice in the workplace. Conservatives want to destroy unions.
- Democrats want to raise the minimum wage. Republicans oppose it.
- Democrats gave health insurance to millions of people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Republicans want to take it all away, with nothing to replace it.
- Democrats want to enforce the Dodd-Frank banking reforms following the Great Recession. Republicans want to weaken them.
- Democrats passed the Credit Card Act and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect you from the worst abuses of the credit and financial industries. Republicans sided with the credit card industry and Wall Street.
- Republicans tried to repeal the inheritance tax for people who inherit $5.4 million or more. Democrats oppose more tax cuts for the wealthy.
- Democrats are fighting for paid sick leave for all workers. Republicans side with business and oppose it.
- Democrats kept the internet fair and equal for everyone. Republicans wanted one internet for the wealthy and a slower one for everyone else.
Democrats, make the case! For example, try running a branding commercial like this during the convention and in the industrial swing states.
2. Democrats are the true party of reform.
Many voters are clearly in a pissy mood and looking for change. Fortunately, Democrats have a long and impressive history of social and workplace reforms, and they’re the only party fighting seriously to take money out of politics. At their convention, Democrats must shout the story of progressive reform: From early worker rights like the 40-hour work week and the minimum wage to civil rights and women’s rights, to health care, to today’s calls for universal sick pay and child care, Democrats have always led the fight for change. If voters want to improve their lives and reform government, that will only happen by electing Democrats.
To convincingly make that case, Democrats will need a very specific agenda for workplace and government reforms (see previous post, “Hillary Clinton: You Need a Plan for Change”).
They will also need to contrast their 100-year history of change with conservatism, whose very ideological foundation is to keep things the way they are or go back to the way things used to be.
3. Conservatism is dead.
Which brings us to our third message. Democrats: Please, please, please don’t squander this chance! While the Republican Party is in chaos and most of the world despises Donald Trump, you must take this opportunity to attack not just Republicans but conservatism. Barely a third of Americans have a positive view of the Republican Party, according to a recent Bloomberg poll (compared to almost 50% approval for Democrats). Now is the time to attack!
The goal is to discredit the very foundation of Republican thought—to delegitimize the entire philosophy of conservatism in the same way Republicans have made liberal an epithet. The message is: Trump is only the end result of conservatism—its meanness, its narrow-mindedness, its fundamental pessimism, its obsession with helping the rich at the expense of the poor. Show America that conservatism as an ideology is:
- Concerned more about the wealthy than about average Americans
- Afraid of new ideas
- A zealously anti-government philosophy that doesn’t believe in the ability of Americans to govern ourselves
- Stingy, hard-hearted, and callous
- Fiscally incompetent (conservatives exploded the deficit twice under Reagan and Bush and experts say Trump’s proposals will do the same)
- Old-fashioned and backward-looking
- Narrow, constricted, and negative
- Unable to envision a better future
- Un-Christian (for Democrats who dare) or immoral in its policies toward the poor
- Unable to deal with the complex issues of a modern 21st-century superpower
- Unworthy of leading a great nation
- More than a little nuts
And Democrats, while you’re conveying these essential messages, please don’t forget the cardinal rule of The Liberal Message: Never talk about issues without talking about values. And be sure to incorporate the 7 Winning Messages of Democratic Politicians by dressing all your messages in the language of patriotism, optimism, American exceptionalism, faith and values, and fighting for the underdog.