By R Vorster
The Democratic Party has become synonymous with an image of pretentiousness and contempt, effectively forcing the better half out. A message was missing. Let’s be honest, who remembers the slogan of the Democrats? Trump had (slightly less than) half of the US saying ‘Make America Great Again’, whilst Clinton was busy arguing she was the lesser of two evils and pondering why she wasn’t ‘fifty points ahead.’
However vacuous the message on the Republican side, the message on the Democrat side was more often lacking than not. What they did have wasn’t good either: clinging to the utopian idea of a progressive, green society where equality is not an ideal but simply the norm. Envisioning such and striving for this idyllic goal is a crucial element of any political party – and country – wanting to move forward. I doubt many would disagree. However, such a message has to go hand in hand with a plan and an acknowledgment of problems that afflict people now. Trump did just that, Clinton did not.
With all but one of the five congressional races since the election won by Republicans, it seems Democrats are not yet picking up steam. Of course, John Ossoff, for example, received a considerable amount of votes in his traditionally red district. Still, with Trump’s disapproval sky high – even in Ossoff’s district – and support of the health care bill at a nationwide 17 percent, a Democratic wave should have been rocking the foundations of the Republican party by now. Are ever-changing voter bases and the absence of a clear message really the only things to blame?
A Short History
Many of you will have read this simple story over and over again, the usual oversimplified conclusion, always easy to draw afterward. Many have argued that their loss resulted from transitioning voter bases, with Democrats starting to appeal more to professionals, ‘high-minded’ people and Republicans strategically picking up where the Democrats lost their working middle-class voters. And of course, they are partly right.
Political parties simply try to adapt in the name of electoral gain and changing times. Take the rural nineteenth century as an example, when Democrats and Republicans quite bluntly switched places, with Democrats moving from center-right to center-left and vice-versa. In the beginning of the twentieth century, Democrats were then torn between their socially conservative voters in the rural south and their cosmopolitan, progressive voters in the north.
Finally, nearing the end of the twentieth century, Democrats brought forward Bill Clinton, whose neo-liberal, business friendly but progressive ideas served him well at a time when the Soviet power bloc was no more and the world found itself in relative prosperity. This leaves us where we are now, the neo-liberal, progressive Democratic party.
That’s also where the problem lies. Democrats can’t seem to acknowledge that their neo-liberalism has not only brought good, bringing consequences to low-schooled workers who have trouble adapting to these developments. The ‘higher-minded’, professional people who proposed these ideas and fully support them, do not directly feel these consequences. These developments fuel the idea of the ‘elite’ liberal class and their ignorance for the common people’s problems. Evidently, Republicans try to fill the gap, ironically claiming to serve the interest of the common, ‘beaten-down’ man whom they have so often beaten down.
So yes, a shifting voter base has played a role, even though a substantial majority of people who voted for Trump would have benefited miles more from the Democratic economic plan and – more importantly – the Democratic health care plan.
Democrats and Trump, Now
As we have now concluded, the Democrat’s true problem-solving message was hijacked by a feeling of superiority over Trump – contempt – and their ability to truly address problems. Even worse, Democrats continue along the same path.
On the GOP-side, we find a deeply divided house, a dysfunctional Senate, a wildly unpopular President and a hastily written, unsupported healthcare plan. The Democrats have a hugely active base, share a fierce adversity towards the President and have a working – albeit imperfect – healthcare plan. Still, Democrats are stuck in the slow lane. Huge parts of the nation find themselves in complete disarray, they loathe the Democrats and they loathe Trump.
This then brings me to my conclusion. It’s time for Democrats to stop relying on a self-imploding Republican party. Democrats have to stop ignoring problems and start addressing them. It’s time to put on the old pair of work boots, get their hands dirty and regain their image as the party that brought about the New Deal and the Civil Rights movement.