The Democrats’ proposed slogans for the 2018 House elections completely rely on voters’ repulsion of Trump and the GOP. | Trump photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC | Democratic sign: DCCC
By Patrick J. Foote / 07.07.2017
Today, The Hill reported on a new set of stickers being produced by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The DCCC, in an effort to raise money, intends to allow people to vote on which sticker gets printed. One of the options in particular may end up saying a lot about how the DCCC intends to execute their 2018 mid-term campaign.
A blue-on-blue sticker reads “Democrats 2018,” and below it, in white and attempting to look like handwriting, is “I mean, have you seen the other guys?” At once self-deprecating and devoid of self-awareness, this slogan indicates that worst fears of the party’s progressive wing may be on the horizon: a campaign defined solely by the supposed unacceptability of Republicans. A campaign about the transgressive Republicans shattering sacred democratic norms rather than about policy.
In fact, there isn’t a single slogan sticker that isn’t playing off of something that a Republican has said. It shows a reliance on the existence of the Republican Party for the Democrats’ identity, and that is not a good thing.
From the failed recall of Governor Scott Walker to the presidential election in 2016, Democrats’ track record when it comes to defensive campaigning consistently shows a preternatural ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Of course, the role of voter suppression cannot be underestimated when analyzing the powerlessness of the Democratic Party on the federal and most state levels. That being said, since the only remedy to voter suppression is a legislative one, the Democrats need to develop a message that appeals to the working class base of the Republican Party and that is inspiring enough to elicit massive new voter registration (especially among the young).
“Have you seen the other guys?” is a woefully insufficient attempt to do this as it is “the other guys” who have built the power to leave the Democrats in the dust.
Senator Bernie Sanders understands this. The Vermont Senator is hosting rallies in two red states, Kentucky and West Virginia, to build resistance to the disastrous Republican AHCA. Senator Sanders and a few others have shown the ability to speak to red state voters and to walk them through their own thinking to progressive solutions. During a televised town hall event in West Virginia, Sanders had a room of Republicans clapping for single payer, Medicare for All.
According to a YouGov poll, 40 percent of Trump voters support expanding Medicare. This number increases to 46 percent when you poll Republicans overall. That’s a sizable chunk of the electorate that can be approached, and Sanders has shown in his town halls that willingness to dialogue is more than half the battle.
However, the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party, who are beholden to the donations of insurance and pharmaceutical companies, have been slow to take up the fight in earnest. Despite over 50 percent of the House Democratic caucus co-sponsoring a Medicare for All bill, “access to insurance” remains the media talking point of the day.
In January, New Jersey Senator Corey Booker, star of the Democratic Party and potential future presidential candidate, joined with Republicans to vote down an amendment to the budget that would have established “a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to lower prescription drug prices for Americans by importing drugs from Canada.”
Booker said his concern was safety, but that’s also the concern of the big pharma lobby – the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Corey Booker receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from the pharmaceutical industry. However, most of the drugs that people would buy from Canada are originally manufactured in the U.S. They’re just cheaper over the border because the Canadian government negotiates to make them more affordable.
According to polls conducted by the Kaiser Foundation, 72 percent of Americans feel that drug costs are unreasonable and that 74 percent believe that drug companies put profits before people. More than two-thirds of Americans want the ability to buy drugs imported from Canada. Lowering the price of drugs, whether through a “market based solution,” like allowing importation from Canada, or government intervention (like direct negotiation through Medicare) is popular. Unfortunately for Democrats, Trump has already staked out that fertile political territory, committing as recently as March to pushing for Medicare price negotiation.
People want solutions to their problems, and not necessarily “market-based solutions.” Ideology won’t make much of a difference if the end result is lower costs and better outcomes (as single payer has been shown to have). An unapologetically social democratic platform worked for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the UK. It destroyed the conservative opposition’s political legitimacy and all but guaranteed a new round of elections in the near future (you know, gradualism). Healthcare can be the tip of the spear in an American analog.
And while we’re at it, I don’t think the Labour Party would mind if we ripped off their most recent campaign slogan: “For the many, not the few.”
However, it will take a willingness to rupture the steady pipeline of corporate funds into the Democratic Party to get to a place where such a slogan makes sense. Meanwhile, working class voters have seen “the other guys,” but what do you think they see when they look at you?