As a life-long Republican, I have rarely found myself in the position of offering the Democratic Party advice on national campaign strategy. But as the Republican Congress continues refusing to exercise oversight by challenging this administration’s moral bankruptcy and misguided policies, I now believe that the only thing that might bring the GOP to its senses is a Democratic wave in the 2018 election. That doesn’t make me a RINO, just a pragmatist because the harsh truth is that we may have to lose in the midterms order for our government to start working again.
The good news for Democrats is that, when looking at public opinion polls on major issues such as healthcare, immigration and gun control, the GOP is on the wrong side of the fence. Add to that the president’s sub-40 percent approval rating, the continuing chaos in Washington, the historic success of the opposition party in a president’s first midterms, and recent losses in special elections by Republicans in areas the GOP won by large margins in 2016, and the Democrats seem poised for a major victory in the House and possibly, a slight majority in the Senate.
The bad news is that Democrats are doing exactly what the Republicans did starting with the Tea Party in 2010, when the party kept fracturing before coming back together just enough to get Donald Trump elected. Now, a populist faction is pushing the Democratic Party further to the left, which may not hurt them in 2018, but it could very much affect their chance of success in 2020.
It’s easy to claim the high ground amidst the divisiveness and dysfunction of the current administration, but the bigger question for the Democrats in 2018 and 2020 is “what’s your message?” As evidenced by Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat, they can’t just run against President Trump. If all they do is focus on him, they won’t give voters enough of a reason to vote for them and that’s one of the ironclad rules of politics: You have to stand for something, not just against someone.
President Trump was great at reaching the white part of working class whites that felt abandoned by the Democrats because they felt the party had become too elitist and, with issues such as trade and immigration, felt they were losing their country. The Democrats have to focus on the working-class part of the white working class, to regain blue collar voters that have been one of the pillars of the Democratic Party for much of the its history. The president does enough damage to himself, but Democrats have to talk to working-class voters about the fundamental issues they care about: education, infrastructure, social programs being preserved for future generations, minimum wages and most of all, jobs. They want to know how to get a good job and not be left behind by globalization. If the Democrats can reach out to voters on those issues, they’ll be hard to beat.
Three years ago, I would never have imagined offering Democrats guidance on winning elections. But there clearly needs to be a wake-up call in order for the GOP to function again as an issue-oriented party driven by common sense and facts rather than partisanship and power. That said, if 2016 proved anything, it’s that the Democrats seem to be pretty good at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. With the midterms still a ways off, it isn’t time yet for the Democratic Party to start counting its chickens.