By Jeremy Mele
These days, everything seems dire. Donald Trump is president, “alternative facts” are running amok, Republicans are trying to use their power to kick millions of people off health insurance, and, perhaps worst of all, there’s no end in sight. Fortunately, the Democrats have announced new slogans to win over voters and take back the government. Unfortunately, those slogans are awful, and suggest the same tired and substanceless catch-phrasing that lost them the 2016 election (remember “America is already great?”)
The worst offender in this cavalcade of B-list ad copy has to be the one that reads, “Democrats 2018: I Mean, Have You Seen the Other Guys?” This forced and lazy attempt at a call to action points to a repeated failure to connect to all but the most dedicated Democratic voters on anything beyond a superficial level.
Who is this slogan for? Well, let’s start with who it’s not for. It’s not for people who voted for Republicans (including Trump) in the last election; they‘ve seen the “other guys,” and they voted for them. So why did they vote for them? Because, despite the fact that Republicans would unplug a sickly grandfather if a wealthy lobbyist stood to make an extra 50 cents, those voters felt that the Democrats had nothing to offer them. Among other things, it is exactly because of slogans like the ones Democrats are offering now that they felt that way.
The 2016 election showed that high-minded slogans are no substitute for clearly stated policy goals. It also showed that insulting voters is not the path to victory. Voters want to hear that you will bring them good paying jobs, not that you think they are deplorable. Voters want to hear that their healthcare will be provided for and protected, not that America is already great. Voters, above all else, want to know that you connect with them and care about their needs, and pointing and saying that “the other guys” don’t is not enough. (Furthermore, “the other guys” is such a vague term that it could be read as applying to either just elected Republicans, or all registered Republicans. That latter reading is worryingly close to calling a chunk of U.S. voters hopelessly despicable.)
I write this piece not as an angry critic of the Democrats, but rather as a registered Democrat and a democratic socialist who would like to see the party thrive, undo decades of harmful neoliberal policies—many of which it bears direct responsibility for—and become a party of the everyday, working person.
Winning back this title, which Republicans have deceptively claimed as their own, means running on—and enacting—platforms that promise to improve the lives of all people in this country, not just the wealthy few. College for all, single-payer healthcare, and other expansions of the social safety net are not only morally imperative—they are incredibly popular. Democrats would be fools not to run on and advertise platforms that include such measures.
Democrats need platforms, slogans, and messages that let the voters know that they care about making their lives better. Again, Democrats cannot just tell voters that America is already great, because for many, it isn’t. Among other blights and inequalities, the minimum wage doesn’t cover the cost of rent for a decent apartment anywhere in the country, and the Affordable Care Act left 20 million people uninsured. Millions lacking livable wages and healthcare do not a great country make.
The time is now to run on platforms that promise a better country for everyone. Fingerpointing and calling for a return to the status quo are not good enough. The Democrats need to understand this because they are the only political party in the U.S. with the power and the resources to mount a successful challenge to the Republicans. If they don’t learn from the past, and if they don’t stop advertising themselves as just the lesser of two evils, we are all going to be stuck with Trump and the Republicans for a long time.
Come on Democrats. I mean, have you seen your slogans?
Jeremy Mele is Vice Chair of Southern Maine DSA. You can find him on Twitter at @JeremyMMele.
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