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US President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House, after disembarking Marine One in Washington, DC, on June 14, 2022. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Can Democrats Save Their Party... From Its Leadership?

If you choose to abandon this whole working-class constituency—surprise!—it will abandon you.

Jim Hightower


President Joe Biden recently flew off to Taiwan to assure our allies there that he will fight for them. And a couple of weeks later he was winging off to Saudi Arabia, intending to "repair ties" with that repressive monarchy.

A major reason for pessimism about the party's November chances is that its top leaders have decided their candidates can't win in rural areas and smaller factory cities—so they've quit trying.

In terms of international realpolitik, this flurry of foreign travel might be strategically important, but there's a strategic political reality right here at home that calls for a different presidential itinerary: Our country's midterm congressional elections are less than five months away! Taiwan and Saudi Arabia don't get to vote, but Texas and South Carolina do. So, how about spending a bit more time flying, driving or even whistle-stopping to such places, where many hard-hit working-class families are feeling ignored by the national Democratic Party? They'd like to see President Joe fight for and repair ties with them.

In fairness, Biden came through for such families early in his tenure, and his proposals to do more have been deliberately gummed up by such congressional blobs of do-nothingism as Sens. Mitch McConnell and Joe Manchin. But blaming them isn't winning any points for him—or helping the families now struggling with baby formula shortages, $5 gasoline, continuing farm and factory depression, housing evictions, etc.

Instead of blame or surrender, more of former President Harry Truman's feisty, can-do spirit is called for, going straight to the people with an urgent program of Big Actions that people need and want. To hell with placating McConnell and Manchin — come on, Joe; you're president, not them. And you're not powerless to help people! Want to DO something about corporate price spikes on food and fuel? Rep. Ro Khanna points out that you can and should use the government's emergency authority to do "preemptive buying" on the open market. This would quickly and dramatically cut what consumers now pay, plus the authority is already on the books, so no need to kiss McConnell's butt — just take direct presidential action for ordinary Americans.

This is the difference between giving speeches telling voters you're on their side... and actually being there, so they can see it for themselves. It's honest politics. And it would do a lot to mitigate the cries of "It's over" and "Biden numbers are in the ditch" and "Democrats are doomed."

And these are Democrats talking! Even before November's congressional elections are run, too many conventional-thinking Democratic operatives are surrendering to a presumed Republican sweep. You don't need a political science degree to know that if you start out announcing that you'll lose, chances are you will. After all, who wants to vote for a party that shows no fighting spirit, no confidence in the appeal of its own ideas?

A major reason for pessimism about the party's November chances is that its top leaders have decided their candidates can't win in rural areas and smaller factory cities—so they've quit trying. Worse, they blame the voters, claiming that Trumpism, Fox News BS and culture war conspiracy nonsense have poisoned the minds of people "out there." Thus, they've abandoned the countryside to go all out in big urban areas. Democratic congressional leaders even killed their rural outreach programs, and the former Party chairman officially abandoned the turf in 2018, meekly declaring: "You can't door-knock in rural America."

Actually, sir, you can. And if you choose to abandon this whole working-class constituency—surprise!—it will abandon you. And the cold fact is that national Democrats didn't just quit going down the dirt roads and factory streets, they've actively been working for several years against families living there—the trade scams that sucked out union jobs; the shameful bailout of Wall Street bankers who crashed our real economy, while ignoring millions of devastated workaday people; protecting drug profiteers who caused the brutal opioid epidemic; doing nothing about the corporate-caused farm depression still ripping across our land; and so many other vivid examples of top Democrats not hearing, seeing or responding to this vital, FDR-ish constituency of millions that they now blithely dismiss as irredeemable.

Did party poobahs think voters wouldn't notice or care how they're being treated? If we want them back on our side, then go to them... and get back on their side!

© 2021 Creators Syndicate
Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the books "Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow" (2008) and "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos: A Work of Political Subversion" (1998). Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

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