When looking at the 2018 election, the first obvious statement that needs to be made is that “all politics is local.” Another one I like from the Clinton years by James Carville is “it’s the economy, stupid.”
I believe five different constituent groups exist, each requiring a slightly different approach.
The first is the loyal Democratic base. The Democratic Party already has them philosophically, so it’s all about enthusiasm and turnout. Efforts need to be directed at turning out every single registered Democrat and getting the non-registered Democrats signed up. They will not all vote for you but 90 percent should and that is as good as it gets.
The second is the registered Independents. Polls show that Trump has fewer of them than in the previous election, but a percentage will still vote for him. My approach would be not to knock him personally, but go after his policies and programs with the broad question, “is the stuff he is doing working for you?” Items such as the tax cut, which studies show does two things: increases the debt and radically cuts the taxes of the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans, not the middle class. Another big one is health care and I would talk about that issue a lot. Show specifically how the Republicans and the President are screwing it up. Where Trump and company is vulnerable with the middle class is in the difference between what he says he is doing to help them and what is actually occurring.
The third group I would target directly is Trump’s core constituency. Good-paying jobs is a real issue that the Democrats have not historically done enough on. There has been a major adverse impact upon the Midwestern, middle income, and middle aged, primarily white, voter with no college degree. They are the core of his support and he is hanging on to them because they like his combative rhetoric.
A close analysis, however, shows his programs and policies are not helping that voter. Instead of complaining about what is not being done by him, Democrats should develop programs and policies directed specifically at that constituent group. Programs could be proposed that are developed to assist workers in transitioning through training, education, etc., to help those displaced by factories closing and moving out of the country. Providing incentives to keep and to bring in new companies that really help the middle-class constituents who are affected by a changing economy is key.
Also, be careful to not develop a large bureaucracy, which gets in the way of successful implementation of these programs. One good example that could be a model for this effort is now going on in some western states that are transitioning workers from old energy industries to new renewable industries. In some cases, government assistance might be useful in those transitioning industries. This is not a new phenomenon. Think about what happened to all those in the horse-and-buggy industry as it declined with Ford and others ramping up to make automobiles. This kind of transition in the economy has been and will continue to be a challenge in which government needs to play a role.
The fourth group is the growing base of minority voters. They consist of the traditional African American voter, which needs to be re-energized to get them back to the percentage that voted for President Obama. Secondly, and very importantly, is the rise of the Hispanic, Asian and other groups who are first or second-generation Americans. This is a group the President has alienated and the Republicans have ignored. Many studies have shown that over the next few years the Republican Party will be in real trouble because of this growing constituency. Again, focus not only on programs to attract them, but turnout as well.
The fifth and final group is the Millennials. Younger voters have been traditionally hard to turn out, but events are changing. From my vantage point of being 75, I learn a lot by listening to my grand kids. Here is what I have learned. Most are very much in favor of: gun control that works, a woman’s right to chose when it comes to her own body, LGBT rights that are a given, and most of them do not understand why universal health care is still being debated and has not yet been implemented. When addressing them, talk about the issues they care about and work turnout hard. Turnout is key for this group and peer leaders are important to make the case.
Issues such as Foreign Policy are not high on the list of many voters and are only an issue with very select groups, so I would not spend a lot of time on them unless asked. It is critical however, to be well versed on all major issues.
If Democratic candidates run well-focused campaigns based upon the voters in their own districts or their own state, the party has an excellent chance of taking back the House of Representatives and possibly even the Senate.
Best wishes on successful campaigns. Our country depends on it.
by Dick Goodson