Sanders Showed Values Matter, But Democrats Continue to Focus on Tactics and Gimmicks

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Sanders Showed Values Matter, But Democrats Continue to Focus on Tactics and Gimmicks

Democrats, writes Atcheson, "need to go beyond tactics, gimmicks and slogans, and embrace a real progressive and populist stance, something the neoliberals controlling the party are loath to do." (Image: Senate Democrats)

The Democrats have just unveiled their new slogan: "A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages."

It looks like they were trying to do a rift on Roosevelt’s New Deal, but ended up with something that sounded more like a pizza slogan.

This follows their much-mocked attempt to have people select a sticker from amongst the most idiotic options imaginable. One of those stickers sort of summed up the Democrat’s approach for going on three decades now: "Democrats 2018. I mean, have you seen the other guys?" Or take this gem: "She persisted. We resisted." Really?

It looks like the Democrat’s neoliberal establishment power base hasn't learned a thing, and they’re likely to pay the price in 2018.  They're focusing on tactics, gimmicks, and ploys, at a time when people are fed up with politics as usual.

For example, a recent Washington Post/ABC poll found that most people don’t think the Democrats stand for anything – other than being against Republicans.

"The Democrats don't understand is that the party’s reliance on tactics rather than values is precisely why people don't think they stand for anything, and it's why they're a minority party."

These slogans with their stunningly obvious calculations and designs do nothing but confirm what people are most fed up about – a political party devoid of real moral center.

Krystall Ball, speaking about Hillary Clinton's campaign said, "The very fact that her team is so publicly mulling these choices reveals that they have no clue that their biggest problem isn’t making the proper electoral calculations, but rather            that their entire campaign is based on electoral calculations."

Well, don't look now, but that's still true of the neoliberals controlling the Democratic Party.  In announcing the Better Deal, Schumer spoke about how Trump got elected because of his populist message, and suggested that a more populist economic focus would do the same for Democrats. In two separate opeds, Pelosi and Schumer did some serious mea culpas and talked about representing the interests of the working Americans, but they didn't mention Medicare for All and there's been no talk about corporate campaign funds or contributions from fat-cats.  At the end of the day, no amount of messaging will change the fact that the neoliberal branch of the party is in bed with the oligarchy.

What they did mention were some small, tactically designed policies meant to appeal to "working Americans" in what was presumably an attempt to attract white men back to the party.

The New York Times, in an editorial in Tuesday's paper, essentially endorsed this tactical approach, noting how difficult it is to pass anything in today's partisan atmosphere, particularly with Republicans in charge of both chambers of Congress, and urging the Democrats to continue pursuing the art of the possible.

What the Times and the Democrats don't understand is that the party’s reliance on tactics rather than values is precisely why people don't think they stand for anything, and it's why they're a minority party.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders—the most popular politician in America—simply says what he means, and he operates from a frame of reference defined by values. No equivocating.  No vague slogans. No carefully constructed, poll-tested phrasing. And he funded his campaign "thirty-seven dollahs" at a time from small donors.  He actively fights for a progressive economic agenda that tackles income inequality, creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all.  He openly advocates campaign finance reform.  He specifically calls out the power brokers in the oligarchy for their control of our elections and our media.

If Democrats don't figure out that they need to adopt and back a values-driven agenda, not simply spout slogans, the people will see through it, and Democrats will not achieve the gains needed to get control of the Senate.  

But wait, you say, the Trump Administration is starting to resemble an adult version of Lord of the Flies, and the Republican Congress is flailing all over itself, while proposing budgets and health care bills designed to reward the rich and screw the rest of us.  And the people are wise to their four-decade con—most of us aren't buying trickle down, supply-side, or any of the other euphemisms they've used to put a silk scarf on their piggish proposals.

All true.  But Republicans have gerrymandered their way into a virtual lock on the House, and they only need 26 to 27 percent of the vote to hold onto the gains they've made, including the presidency in 2020. Why?  Because progressives and the young are staying home in droves.  In the 2014 midterms the Democrats took an unprecedented shellacking because only a little more than a third of the people bothered to vote. 

Rather than aiming to get the few old white men back into the fold, Democrats should be wooing the largest block of voters – the 40 to 45 percent who stay home – to show up.  The young, who overwhelmingly voted for Sanders, are the biggest source of votes and the key to a Democratic victory in 2018 and 2020.

But to appeal to them, Democrats would need to go beyond tactics, gimmicks and slogans, and embrace a real progressive and populist stance, something the neoliberals controlling the party are loath to do.

And so we get slogans.

John Atcheson

John Atcheson

screen_shot_2017-07-26_at_9.09.47_pm.pngJohn Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, and he has just completed a book on the 2016 elections titled, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track, available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson

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