So last week Donald Trump—Master Persuader, artist of the deal—pitched his best argument for why “every single African American” should vote for him: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed. … What the hell do you have to lose?”
We’re assuming that question was rhetorical (whether Trump realizes it or not), but just for the record, we thought we’d answer it anyway. Just off the top of our head, here are eight important things black people (and Americans generally, for that matter) could lose by voting for Trump.
1. A president who is sensitive to black issues
Hillary Clinton spent some time in her early activist years working on civil rights issues in the South. She has earned support from the black community for showing concern for black issues and for developing an agenda to address them.
By contrast, Trump:
2. Their jobs
According to two extensive reports by Moody’s Analytics, Trump’s economic proposals could cause a “lengthy recession” and cost Americans over 3 million jobs. Clinton’s proposals would add more than 10 million jobs.
3. Their right to vote
A recent federal appeals court decision struck down North Carolina’s GOP-enacted voter ID law, saying the restrictions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision” in their attempts to suppress voting. Trump and his Republican Party aggressively support similar laws in other conservative states. Black people who have trouble securing the proper voting identification would be unable to vote in elections. Voter ID laws hit hardest at the elderly, students, low-income voters, and those without easy access to transportation.
4. Any hope of addressing police violence and unfair enforcement against the black community
Clinton has been supportive of calls to reduce police violence, unequal treatment, and racial profiling of African Americans. Donald Trump and Republicans have shown contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement and hostility toward the issues black people are raising. Trump, in fact, has called for police to be more aggressive.
5. Their health care
Trump has vowed to repeal the current health care law and replace it with a vastly inferior version. Millions of black people enrolled in Obamacare or in expanded Medicaid would stand to lose their current health insurance.
6. Their social safety net
If Trump’s Republican Party manages to pass the federal budget that House Speaker Paul Ryan has outlined, it would devastate social services in America. Republicans have already tried to pass major cuts to food stamps for America’s poorest citizens (they were stopped by Democrats). Since poverty and unemployment disproportionately affect African Americans, those cuts would disproportionately harm black people.
7. A living wage
Trump has made contradictory statements about whether he would support a raise in the minimum wage, but he apparently doesn’t support an increase to $15, as Democrats do. And his party is dead-set against any federal raise at all, saying it should be left to the states. Any black households with a family member working a minimum-wage job would most likely not see any meaningful raise in the national rate under Trump.
8. Any possibility of affordable college tuition, affordable child care, guaranteed sick pay, or family leave
Clinton and the Democratic Party are fighting for all of those significant improvements to the lives of workers. Like all Americans, black people will have to depend on Democrats winning office to achieve any of them.
In our last post, we criticized Hillary Clinton’s stump speech as a deadly dull exercise in policy wonkishness that ignores crucial lessons from this election season and from her own Democratic convention. Which undoubtedly will raise the question: “OK, smartass, then what should she be saying?”
Glad you asked. Every Clinton speech (and every speech from Democratic candidates around the country) should be conveying four things:
- The values she and the Democratic Party believe in, and how they relate to traditional American and religious/humanitarian values.
- Democrats are the party of working people and the poor.
- Democrats are the true party of reform.
- Conservatism is broken.
So, in the spirit of putting up or shutting up, here’s an unpolished example of a Clinton stump speech that illustrates what we mean:
Because blue-collar voters in swing states are so crucial to this election, we thought we’d watch a couple videos of Hillary Clinton’s stump speeches, to see what messages she was bringing to the hard-working people of Ohio, Florida, and the country at large.
To be honest, we were appalled. Clinton and her staff seem to have ignored every lesson they should have learned from a successful Democratic convention and from the wildly popular insurgent campaigns of Sanders and Trump. Here are just a few of the things missing from Clinton’s stump speech:
- No call for change and reforms in Washington
- Little empathy or acknowledgment of financially strapped families
- No emphasis on traditional American and Democratic values. The whole thing is mostly uninspiring policy wonkishness
- A few jabs at Trump, but no major contrasts between progressive and conservative values and beliefs, and no full-on attack on conservatism. With Trump at the top of the ticket, Democrats have a golden opportunity to sully the conservative brand by linking it to him. Why aren’t they doing it?
- No point-by-point rundown of what Democrats will do for blue-collar workers. She does talk in detail about policies, and they will help the middle class, but she doesn’t really frame them as such.
- Very few personal anecdotes about why she’s running for office, her core beliefs, and the mission that drives her, which were so effective at the convention
As much as we’re fans of Clinton, she will never be a captivating speaker. Fine. But at least her messages can be sharp. Sadly, they aren’t. They’re not even close. Clinton’s stump speech is as dry and lifeless as a poli-sci lecture from your least-favorite professor. It’s all head and no heart.
She starts out with her requisite howdy-dos to local pols, and then almost immediately launches straight into a litany of policy positions:
- Creating jobs
- Stimulating growth by developing our infrastructure
- Small business development (with a few digs at Trump for refusing to pay his contractors)
- Raising the minimum wage
- Equal pay for women
- Improving education and increasing teacher pay
- Affordable college tuition
- And so on
Are you still reading?
All this is important, sure—and certainly a contrast to Trump’s mindless generalities. But good Lord, where is the soul? After all that’s happened this election season, Madame Secretary—after all we’ve learned about the pent-up anger and frustration of the electorate—this is what you think voters are hungry to hear? Infrastructure? Americans need spiritual nourishment. They need a leader who understands that many of them feel abandoned by politicians who seem more interested in money and special interests than in improving the lives of everyday people. They need to know what you stand for. They need inspiration.
We hope other Democratic candidates nationwide aren’t making the same mistakes. Just for the record, here are the elements we believe should be part of every candidate’s stump speech:
- Start with the general and work toward the specific.
- Begin with a declaration of your values—not your policy positions. Tell your audience what you and the Democratic Party believe in, and how those beliefs reflect traditional American values.
- Throw in a dollop of patriotism, American exceptionalism, and positivity. Remind us why we’re proud to be Americans.
- Outline three or four major issues—the ones most important to your audience. Unlike Clinton, try to avoid a laundry list of position statements. Be specific, and use anecdotes and unassailable facts to make your case.
- Describe how you’re going to tackle those issues.
- Contrast your views with your opponent’s. Globalize your argument—don’t just attack your opponent, attack conservatism. Try to undermine the very foundation of conservative ideology.
- End on a hopeful, upbeat note and a call to action.
In our next post, we’ll try to practice what we preach and take a stab at writing the stump speech Clinton should be delivering.
Clinton stump speeches:
For months now The Liberal Message has been begging Democratic candidates to never talk about policies without talking about values—that is, the core beliefs that underline those policies, such as fairness, equality, personal freedoms, helping people in need, etc.
So we were thrilled to run across a recent blog post by a bona fide Smart Person with actual readers who says the same thing. Every Democratic candidate should read this essay by George Lakoff, the UC Berkeley professor of cognitive science who wrote the famous book Moral Politics (which describes the “strict father”/”nurturing parent” psychology that underlies conservative and liberal beliefs, respectively). This latest essay is mostly about the psychological mechanisms that make Trump and his supporters tick, but the good stuff for Democrats is the last section, on how progressive candidates can counter the Trump/GOP messaging.
Briefly, Lakoff says Democrats should:
- Start with a discussion of values and then relate policies to them.
- Stay positive, emphasize facts, and use repetition in making your case.
- Support the police.
- Support unions (as an instrument of freedom for workers).
- Don’t let yourself be drawn into mudslinging. Channel President Obama and keep it classy.
- De-emphasize identity politics. Democratic constituencies are important, but be sure to speak inclusively, for everyone (including, he says, poor white Americans; see our previous post).
Lakoff has lots more good details. It’s valuable reading and a complementary viewpoint to our own 7 Winning Messages for Democratic Politicians.
The Democratic Party convention has come and gone, and while it was generally successful—and often inspiring—one critical message was strangely missing: Democrats seemed to virtually ignore blue-collar voters. They never explained precisely how their policies are going to help them. We heard plenty of rhetorical hugs and kisses for other important Democratic constituencies—people of color, LGBTers, environmentalists, and Bernie Sanders economic populists. But imagine yourself as an underemployed, financially stretched, blue-collar worker watching from your couch in suburban Ohio or Pennsylvania. What did you hear? Nothing. Zip. Nada, as Tim Kaine might say.
By contrast, the Republican convention seemed to be talking only to those voters. The Democrats’ omission is mystifying for three reasons:
- Blue-collar workers traditionally have been a critical part of the Democratic base. Union support is vital to Democrats for fundraising, voter turnout, and loyalty.
- Pundits have been saying it is precisely the white, blue-collar voters in swing states who could tip this election for Trump.
- Democratic policies have so much to offer middle-class and working-class families. Why wouldn’t you showcase them?
Democratic campaigns throughout the country can’t make the same mistake. We should be aggressively fighting for those voters in three ways:
- By reminding voters that Democrats have been the party of workers for a hundred years. Since the turn of the 20th century, almost every significant improvement in the lives of American workers has come from Democrats:
- The 40-hour workweek
- 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 for everyone
- The recently passed law to curb the worst abuses of the credit card industry
- The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to keep people from getting ripped off by unscrupulous finance companies
- By emphasizing how Democrats are still fighting for working people today, and how our proposals will specifically help them, including:
- Tax cuts for the middle class, not the wealthy
- Support for unions, so that people have a voice in the workplace
- Raising the minimum wage
- Affordable college tuition
- Affordable child care
- Guaranteed sick pay
- Paid family leave
- By contrasting Democrats’ specific proposals with the sad record of Republicans and their emphasis on tax cuts for the wealthy. Conservatives have opposed virtually every improvement in the lives of workers.
Americans live in the greatest, richest, most powerful nation in the world. They have a right to ask for a decent quality of life. Democrats are the only party with a long and accomplished history of fighting for our nation’s workers. We need to tell that story.