Rejoice, Republicans, you will have another majority on your hands, because Democratic messaging for the 2018 election cycle is nonexistent.
Harsh? Not even. The unimaginative leaders of the Democratic Party — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez — have been playing nice and talking about the virtues of “civility,” while the Republican Party has been accusing Democrats of backing Communism and supporting the violent street gang MS-13. (Trump has additionally called a sitting Democratic congresswoman “an extraordinarily low IQ person” and Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” among other gems that “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer” might recall.)
Examples of the Democratic party eating its own, especially their women, are plentiful. Nancy Pelosi tweeted about “striving to make American Beautiful again” when Maxine Waters called for her supporters to confront Trump admiration officials to express their political opposition; Chuck Schumer criticized Waters as well. When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a stunning victory against longtime Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., Pelosi was dismissive. “They made a choice in one district. So let’s not get yourself carried away as an expert in demographics and all of that.”
After all, has Nancy Pelosi been around America lately? America is not beautiful. It is turgid and angry, with racism around every corner. White people are calling the cops on a black kid mowing lawns. A white man yelled at a woman wearing a Puerto Rico T-shirt that she had no business celebrating the territory, which is part of the United States. Immigrant kids are separated from their parents, drugged in shelters, and having to defend themselves at one year of age in immigration court. We have a president who cozies up to dictators, one of whose operatives sought to upend our electoral system while dissing our long term allies.
If democracy depends on Democrats retaking power — in the words of the Washington Monthly’s Paul Glastris— then the Democrats must start thinking differently, and they must start messaging differently. Playing respectability politics is not going to get us back the House, the Senate or the White House; going high when they go low ended with the low-goers winning.
The inability of Democratic leadership to come up with a coherent message to engage and battle Trumpism and the Republican Party is unconscionable: Trump’s daily chaos and his policy upheaval should frame every utterance from the Democratic Party. There is, after all, so much from which to choose, from immigrant children kept in cages to the judiciary being stacked for the next 50 years. While Sen. Schumer has said that he will fight Kavanaugh’s appointment, no clear unified message has come from Senate Democrats on how, exactly, they plan to either push back against the nomination or lay his decisions directly at the White House’s door. And when activists take matters into their own hands, the timidity that characterized so much of the Democratic response to Trump in 2016 is on full display: Don’t irk the vast center, they seem to say, no matter how much it fires up the left.
Democrats should be able to run on one clear message with which we all agree: Democracy is being destroyed under the Trump administration. The Republican Party is the Party of Trump, and Trumpism is not democracy. It might not be “civil” to accuse the other side of ruining the country, but they’ve never been shy about doing it to us and, this time, it’s true. Come out fighting, instead of trying to be polite and civil; Trumpism has proven that bullying is a winning strategy.
If Democrats cannot get a clear coherent message of why, exactly, voters should flock to the polls in a rebuke to the absolute chaos of this Trump Presidency — one which is mired in scandal and is stripping away every policy gain for which Democrats worked since the Roosevelt Administration — the party deserves to lose so that we can find something better with which to replace it. This time of national upheaval should be a clarion call for a clear message of common sense and fighting for democracy. If Democrats can’t find that message, then perhaps it will be time to change the symbol of the party from a donkey to a jackass.