Monday, December 26, 2016

Rebuilding the Democratic Party

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Mara Liasson is practical--more so than most liberal Democrats--and has a pretty good idea of why the Democrats lost and have been losing with such frequency. She states some reasons

1. Be clear about how bad things are — and are not — for the Democratic Party 
..Not only are they in the minority in every branch of government in Washington, but beyond the beltway Democrats have a "trifecta" — control of both state houses and the governor's mansion — in only 6 states. Republicans have total control of state government in 25 states.
That is a key. Democrats have been focused on big policies at the federal level and have neglected the state and local elections. No one really mentioned recent statements about the party leadership. They re-elected Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader and are pushing divisive candidates for head of the DNC. They ignore attractive candidates like Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard simply because she backed Bernie and are pushing far -left ideas in a centrist world.  
2. First things first: Get a message on the economy 
...They need a message on the economy that cuts across class and racial lines, that can appeal to the young person saddled with college debt and the union worker (or former union worker) whose plant has moved to Mexico.
That was an enormous oversight. Hillary and her team just assumed that the unions would support her  because they always had. She never spoke to the real pain people were feeling. Her blind support for Obama and the baggage of her husband having signed NAFTA were difficult to overcome but she didn't even try. While the big union leaders like Richard Trumka were blowing smoke about delivering their votes, the rank and file workers had other ideas. Globalism killed the good blue collar jobs and no one cared...except Trump and to an extent Bernie. The Hillary campaign never adequately addressed the fears of the working man and woman. They saw wages fall, jobs diminish and health insurance costs soar while hours were cut. They never one addressed the fact that a record number of people are not even working and those who are are under employed. By not having a clear and concise message Hillary lost the rust belt to Trump. 
3. Figure out how to resist Trump in Congress 
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York have a choice — they can take a page out of Mitch McConnell's playbook and commit themselves to total obstruction. (The Senate Republicans' leader famously said in a 2010 National Journal interview, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.")Or they can pick and choose their fights, working with Trump where he supports their long-held goals — on a big infrastructure program, for instance.
What Liasson misses here is that both Obama and Harry Reid changed the rules. Obama expanded presidential power to levels not seen in a half century while Harry Reid invoked the "nuclear option" with regard to filibusters. Those two things have made this congress and this president the most powerful in decades. Democrats who wish to fight Trump will find their arsenals depleted thanks to the lack of foresight and self control of senate leadership. 

The Dems would be very smart to play the opposition party and not the anti-Trump party. Trump is not a conservative and will work across lines to get what he wants but the Dems have to negotiate in good faith--something they are no longer known for. 
4. Rebuild your farm team 
One of the consequences of losing big in the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014 is that the Democratic bench is decimated.Midterm elections are the time when the majority of elected offices in the country are filled. While Republicans are able to turn out their voters every two years, Democrats seem only able to turn out their voters every four. That needs to change.
As I mentioned earlier, they have no regard for the younger people in their party. Their champions are Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders when they should be the aforementioned Gabbard and Tammy Duckworth, the current Representative and newly elected senator. Both Gabbard and Duckworth are not your typical Democrats--both have served (or are still serving) in the military and Duckworth was grievously wounded in Iraq when her Blackhawk was hit by an RPG. These women and many like them should be the party's standard bearers and not people in their 70's who think like people in their 70's. 
5. Don't even think about the next presidential race.  
One of the big consequences of Hillary Clinton losing the 2016 election is that the Democratic Party has no natural national leaders after Obama leaves office next month.But that's OK.Right now, the party needs a message and a permanent infrastructure that can turn out its voters every two years — more than it needs a field of ready candidates to take on Trump in 2020.
This I definitely agree with but I guarantee you that the media will start talking about who will run by the beginning of summer. They will focus on Warren, Joe Biden, Chuck Shumer and other long-time liberal stalwarts. They will fall into the exact same trap they did with Hillary where they will anoint one of these people (probably Biden) and work actively against anyone attempting to beat them (see Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary). 

All in all the Democrats have really weak bench but are stronger than they realize. If they take some time and assess what they have and what they need to do they can recover quickly. A lot of that will depend on two things: how active Obama is after the leaves office and how deeply they search their souls. If Obama is their leader and they fear reprisals for questioning his two terms, they will get no where. It's important to allow people to question some of the policy decision Obama made and to realize that Hillary was running for a third Obama term and it was a factor in her losing. 

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