Memo to Democrats: 'Taxes/Healthcare' Better 2018 Message Than 'Trump/Russia'

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Memo to Democrats: 'Taxes/Healthcare' Better 2018 Message Than 'Trump/Russia'

For Democrats to win next year, voters need to hear that candidates are "fed up" and "the economy and politics are rigged against the hard-working middle class"

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are the Democratic Party's top lawmakers. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

To win over the "rising American electorate" of young and diverse voters in 2018, the Democratic Party must "recognize that these voters will not be motivated unless they hear a message from the Democrat who says he or she is 'fed up' and 'the economy and politics are rigged against the hard-working middle class,'" according to a new memo by a pair of pollsters.

The Washington Post's Dave Weigel was granted exclusive access to a memo that was prepared by pollsters Stan Greenberg and Nancy Zdunkewicz for the nonprofit Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund. The memo echoes an "Autopsy" (pdf) of the party's 2016 performance published earlier week, which conlcuded, "The party must learn how to speak a populist tongue that is in sync with real advocacy for a clear agenda, putting public needs above corporate profits."

On Twitter late Wednesday, Weigel said the polling "suggests the party is far better off talking taxes/healthcare than Russia/Trump," referencing the ongoing investigation into collusion allegations, which made headlines earlier this week when three former Trump campaign staffers were hit with federal charges.

In the memo, Weigel reports, Greenberg and Zdunkewicz warned that Democrats will likely lose voters in next year's races unless they present a "clear, populist platform" and position themselves as a noteworthy opponents to the far-right agendas of congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump, who are currently pushing a tax plan that would benefit the wealthy, repeatedly tried to sabotage the national healthcare system, and filled the government with lobbyists and corporate insiders.

However—despite the president's plunging approval rating—the memo notes that "because voters do not hear Democrats expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo on economics or the balance of power when so many are concerned about the direction of this country, only 4-in-10...voters say Democrats 'know what it's like to live a day in my shoes' and are 'for the right kind of change.'"

Noting that since June, there has been a 10-point drop in the number of voters who told pollsters they were inclined to vote for Democrats next year, they argued that "Democrats must make the main choice in this election about how the Republicans in Congress have gone back on their promises on healthcare and protecting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security."

Although a bolder and more populist message has been common among progressives like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who has continuously advocated for a Medicare For All healthcare system, and is up for re-election in 2018—for several years, the party establishment has caught heat for its mediocre Trump era messaging.

In July, the party announced its "Better Deal" platform. Although the platform has been cautiously celebrated by many progressives, as Kevin Gosztola wrote for Shadowproof that same month, "the Democratic Party has floundered and sputtered around while trying to develop an agenda that can convince citizens they are a clear alternative to President Donald Trump."

Gosztola concluded that Senate Minority Leader Chuck "Schumer and #TheResistance still do not want to completely abandon major parts of the neoliberal agenda they have advanced during the past decades"—demonstrated by refusals to rally behind Keith Ellison's bid for DNC chairman, or Sanders's run for president—and thus, "the Democrats cannot and will not promise working people all that much of value so long as they remain wedded to this brand of destructive corporate politics." 

After Weigel teased his polling report on Twitter Wednesday night, journalist Glenn Greenwald offered a similar analysis.

To win in 2018, and in the elections that follow, polls suggest that the Democratic Party's current leaders likely will need to step down and allow the party platform to shift further left. As Common Dreams reported last week, a recent Harvard-Harris poll (pdf) found that 52 percent of registered Democratic voters want "movements within the Democratic Party to take it even further to the left and oppose the current Democratic leaders."

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