Trump and the Republicans keep dredging Hillary’s name up, again and again. And every time they do, some bunch of Democrats rush to her defense, playing straight into the Republican strategy of keeping Hillary’s name up in the main lights. The whole intent of this is plainly obvious: to make Hillary the face of the Democratic party, and then plant the suggestion or even hint among the most stalwart independents that where there is smoke there might be fire. And the Democrats are letting them get away with it.
At the same time, Obama’s name is starting to vanish. In the main, this is also because of Republican antics. Trump acts like Obama never even existed. He never mentions Obama by name as he steadily removes every vestige of his administration. When faced with some feature of the Obama years that cannot be ignored, Trump blithely rewrites it, revising history and inserting alternative facts more to his liking. Then he casts himself into the lead role and claims full credit for anything positive. To see this strategy in operation, all one has to do is watch Fox News. And the Democrats are letting him get away with it.
The Democrats are in disarray. If they do not recognize it, and do something about it right now, they risk losing the midterms this fall and even the Presidential in 2020. Right now the party must stop allowing the Republicans to define what the Democratic party stands for. They need to start by getting Hillary off stage once and for all. She is the totally wrong icon to leave out as the standard bearer of the party. She is the anathema of a candidate who paid no attention to the clamor for hard issues erupting all around, and whose only campaign strategy was to avoid taking a hard position on anything even remotely controversial, keeping tight instead to the platform of “It’s My Turn,” and “I’m Not Trump.”
The party, ideally, needs somebody of their choosing up on stage and under the lights who can stand as a true face of the Democratic Party. The obvious pick here would be Obama, but others might serve just as well. A charismatic chairman of the DNC, for example, or perhaps Joe Biden, unless he is determined to run himself in 2020. The objective has to be to stop allowing the Republicans to define what the Democratic party looks like, and to get a positive example out there who can do some good.
More, or at least equally important, the party must advance a core set of positive programs to frame the difference between the parties and provide a reason for support that is keyed to something other than the negative. In plain words, the “Anybody but Trump” issue is not going to be enough to win any election, and if that turns out to be the central issue this fall, it is an omen of disaster for the Democrats.
The recent primary upset of New York Congressman Joseph Crowley, the ten-term representative from the Queens who was number four in the Democratic caucus and looked on by many as Pelosi’s successor, should be a clamoring alarm to every Democrat running for anything anywhere. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old waitress and community organizer from nowhere who pulled it off, spent one-tenth the money and was totally ignored by the DNC, the DCCC and the entire Democratic establishment of New York. But she concentrated on hard Democratic issues without flinching or softening or sugar coating anything – her platform was a list of Democratic Socialism straight out of Bernie’s playbook. Crowley tried to telephone in a plain vanilla centrist campaign that would not ruffle any feathers. Ocasio-Cortez set up a grassroots organization right out of Obama’s playbook that ran into every corner of her district, and then personally hustled around shaking every hand, kissing all the babies, and talking the arm off everyone who would listen. Crowley stayed in Washington, relying on what money would buy and sending stand-ins to show up when a personal appearance was demanded. The result should have been predicted: Ocasio-Cortez clobbered the insouciant congressman by a landslide 15 points - 57% to 42%.
The lessons should be obvious. There has to be something more to the Democratic promise than “Anybody but Trump.” There have to be positive programs being advanced that will define the party and attract the essential votes from the undecided independents. The Democrats have to quit running away from legitimate Democratic principles just because Republicans threaten to call them “socialistic.” Bernie Sanders should have taught all that they did not have to cover up mainstream Democratic philosophy in order to motivate the vital core of independent or undecided voters.
Ocasio-Cortez’s list isn’t that bad: Medicare for all; free community college; increase the minimum wage; and a guaranteed jobs program for all who want work, to name a few from her basic set. In other words, a refocus and underscore of core Democratic issues promoting the social and economic empowerment for the average person. The key here is for the Democrats to step up and claim ownership of Democratic issues in Democratic terms, and not allow the Republicans to define them in Republican terms.
If the Democrats do not get busy and start to reverse these Republican stratagems right now, the midterms may turn into a disaster and the result in 2020 may very well be 2016 all over again.