To win elections, it is helpful to have a disliked opponent. People are more motivated to vote against someone than they are to vote for someone, according to an old adage.
The dreams of Democrats to have such opponents could not be better fulfilled than to have Donald Trump as President and Congress under Republican control.
Among thousands of astonishing opinions, the President doubts the competence of personnel working in two key agencies protecting the country—the FBI and the CIA. Further, he practically challenges a small nation’s dictator to start a nuclear war.
For its part, the Congress digs a deeper hole than ever imagined for the nation’s indebtedness to give the very rich a generous tax reduction. An additional insult is that for decades ordinary Americans were denied health and education assistance proposed by Democrats because Republicans objected to the costs which were far lower than that tax bill costs.
Republican policies are unpopular, and thus Democrats will likely gain in the November elections. But before the Democrats count their eggs, I hope they consider this advice based on spending more than three decades with politicians.
Be positive, and be real.
Positive means that Democrats must have a specific program to bring about improvement. Negativism in opposing these senseless Republican policies will only get you so far.
People may be inclined to vote against Trump and his party because they don’t like what they are doing; but, then they will ask: what do you Democrats want to do once you get into office?
Real means that addressing people’s most pressing problems must be the focus, including considering the views of those who voted for Trump. All voters are concerned about such basic issues as the safety of their roads, their drinking water, and their food.
National Democrats have presented A Better Deal which offers some good themes and policies, but new ideas and energy must come from Democrats facing the voters in hard-fought local races. Examples of such issues could be:
—-What are the Democrats going to do about people who got caught not saving enough for retirement, after the country changed from company-provided pension plans to people having to provide for their own retirements?
—-What are the Democrats going to do about creating jobs in this country after the nation’s business leaders sold our industries to China for short-term profits?
—What are the Democrats going to do to repair roads and bridges suffering from years of neglect?
In schools, the area I know best, budgets are tight because funding levels are still below what they were before the 2009 recession. Further, fewer college students want to go into teaching. Meanwhile, more students require additional services because they are from low-income families and from families not speaking English.
The programs of the past, many created by Democratic presidents and Congresses, are not bold enough to solve those serious weaknesses in American education. A new approach based on candidates talking to voters at thousands of local meetings and debates should emerge.
I argue in my recent book, Presidents, Congress and the Public Schools, that such new thinking is needed. Every child should have a good teacher and a good education for all should be the goal, but new ways of attaining that objective are needed.
Democrats, things are looking good for you in this year’s elections. But, remember that nothing is final until it is over.
In the months ahead, positive new energy addressing real-life problems can change the course of the country. If the election goes the other way, we know what to expect from the other side.
This blog written by Jack Jennings first appeared in the HuffingtonPost on January 8 2018.