Will Democrats win big next year or go the way of Will Rogers?
It’s not like Democrats lack good ideas or the track record of crossing the aisle to enact sound public policies. Civil Rights, Medicare, and Social Security are just some of the policies championed by Democrats that are now fixtures in American society.
To hear the party tell it, Democrats are also in better position to take advantage of midterm elections due to efforts to field qualified candidates and enhance fundraising strategies.
If true, 2018 should be a good year for Democrats, given how President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress are making a compelling case for change. Consider their lack of accomplishments:
• Congressional Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare, a relief since they have no clue how to draft a replacement that would help the millions of Americans who rely on the Affordable Care Act.
• Those same Republicans are struggling to pay for tax cuts without blowing a hole in the federal budget. How do these fiscal conservatives justify the estimated $1.5 trillion hit to federal deficits?
• Disaster relief under President Trump is, well, a disaster. As Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands suffer, they can take heart Trump’s tweets praising the slow recovery efforts.
• The president’s milquetoast public-health response to the opioid crisis falls short of actions needed to expand treatment options to help Americans, many of whom live in areas where then candidate Trump was successful.
• There’s been little action on a new budget and raising the debt ceiling. The last government shutdown cost the U.S. economy $24 billion and a default could spark a global economic calamity.
Democrats seem poised for the win. So why am I haunted by the specter of the late Will Rogers, the vaudeville performer who became America’s best known humorist in the early 20th century?
Rogers’ social commentary could be scathing. His take on the nation’s oldest political party still resonates. “I’m not a member of any organized political party,” he once said, "I’m a Democrat.”
So far, Democrats have been content to stay out of their opponents’ way. The party, as Rogers summed up years ago, has its issues. The uproar over the recent disclosures that the party tweaked the process to favor Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential nomination should serve notice that such shenanigans won’t be tolerated going forward.
However, if Democrats think Trump and the Republicans in Congress will simply stumble their way out of office, they’d better think again. Relying on GOP mistakes won’t be enough to win elections.
Now is the time for Democrats to clearly spell out the policy differences that separate them from Republicans. Campaigning on the theme of competency would be a good start. From there, Democrats should talk up practical ideas and their experience in governing. Closing the wage gap by increasing the minimum wage and decreasing the corporate tax rate, ensuring that every vote counts by securing the nation’s voting systems, eliminating voter suppression tactics, and improving educational opportunities by increasing teacher pay and establishing uniform standards for both charter and public schools are just a few proposals that could produce results, if Democrats have power.
Such power is within the Democrats' grasp. The president’s poll numbers are in the toilet. Congressional Republicans have no legislative accomplishments and an ongoing criminal investigation threatens to bring down the Trump administration. All that would typically give Democrats their best chance to re-establish political power, a sense of purpose and a chance to govern. 2018 could be the year, if only Democrats can somehow prove Rogers wrong.