The overwhelming opinion of respected political thinkers across the country since the 2016 elections has been that Democrats need a better message.
And now comes the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee trying out this new slogan: “I mean, have you seen the other guys?”
Like many others, when I saw it I had to double check that I wasn’t reading a satirical piece. Now, some are saying it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, and maybe it was. Even so, it feels out of touch to tee something like this up for our opponents right now.
Over the years, the national party has drifted away from their once-core message of fighting for the working class, resulting in losses up and down the ballot for many cycles. And it’s nearly impossible to look at the campaigns run by Democrats in recent years, Michigan included, and argue that isn’t true.
— Derek Willis (@derekwillis) July 5, 2017
Here in Michigan, the candidate who campaigned with fire in his belly on two big ideas — Medicare for all and free college — won the Democratic primary. The candidate whose overarching message was simply anti-Trump lost the general.
Yes, the Russians. Yes, James Comey. Yes, gerrymandering and dark money. Those are all factors. But here’s the inconvenient truth that Democrats need to accept: People who vote D, on the whole, are a lot less loyal to party than they are to candidates and ideas. They tend to chafe against the kind of authoritarianism that leads to blind party loyalty — the kind that Republicans profit from.
That means Dems have to work a lot harder to earn votes. Not fair? Suck it up, buttercup; that’s life in the D tent.
As I noted on MIRS last week, we can’t put up mealy-mouthed candidates with bland messaging, like in the Georgia Sixth, and expect to inspire people to get out and vote. Message is king for Democrats, but in cycle after cycle, state and federal campaigns across the country are being run by people from D.C. who think that cookie-cutter slogans and vague platforms will win elections.
Candidates are discouraged from taking stands on issues that might alienate corporate donors, and the messages are so geared toward appealing to everyone that they end up appealing to no one.
Here’s a newsflash: What worked once in California isn’t necessarily going to work next year in Michigan. And what resonates in Alpena probably isn’t what voters care about in Ann Arbor.
We seem to have forgotten that all politics is local, and that means local candidates who demonstrate they share the values and care about the same issues as they people they want to represent. It’s all about the message.
Until Democrats finally learn that lesson, we’re going to keep losing elections.