WASHINGTON, June 13, 2017 ⏤ Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election. The Democratic Party failed to win a majority in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. The reason is that Democrats had a losing message. Instead of offering positive policies, Clinton and the Democrats campaigned on “not Trump.”
Since November, they have not changed their message; instead, they’ve increased the message’s intensity. Trump is president. The Democratic strategy is to contest that reality by denying its legitimacy.
Clinton got more popular votes than Trump. She dominated in states like California and New York. But the framers of the Constitution wanted to ensure that a couple of large, urban states did not dominate all the others. As much as liberals hate it, Mississippi, Utah and Montana voters matter, too. That’s why we have the electoral college.
Trump won because he got a majority of the Electoral College votes. The Democrats should have graciously accepted defeat and moved to a strategy of positive policy suggestions. Instead, they want only to delegitimize and oppose Trump.
After the election, they tried to convince members of the Electoral College to cast their votes for Clinton, ignoring the wishes of voters in their states. When that didn’t work, they started the resist Trump movement and tried to delay the approval of Trump cabinet picks. Then they tried to convince the public that Trump colluded with the Russians.
So far these are all losing strategies. In every special election for members of the House, the Democrats have lost. Despite that, they continue their losing message.
What should the Democrats do?
They have real policy differences with the Trump administration. They should fight to ensure that they have input into policy discussions to tackle the crucial issues facing America. If they fought on policy grounds, new policies would better reflect their goals, giving Democrats something to positively campaign on in the future.
On tax reform, the GOP will want lower and flatter tax rates across the board. The Democrats want lower tax rates for low-income earners, but higher rates on those who earn more. That is, Republicans favor flatter tax rates, while Democrats favor a progressive tax structure.
What a compromise would look like is hard to say, but it could easily include lower marginal tax rates on those now in the top brackets, at the same time eliminating deductions rules that allow Warren Buffet to pay a lower effective rate than his secretary, and some extremely wealthy people to pay less in total taxes than the average teacher.
A policy compromise involves some give and take with an eye on the long game. If the goal of Democrats is not to punish the rich, but to extract more tax revenue from them, it can be achieved without raising the top marginal tax rate, a move that’s more likely to push more wealth into foreign tax havens than to more heavily (“fairly”) burden the rich. Democrats could then campaign on a positive message of achievement.
Instead, they’re likely only to resist Republican proposals and demand without compromise policies that they know Republicans can’t accept.
President Trump has said he wants to spend up to a trillion dollars on infrastructure improvements. To minimize the cost to taxpayers, he wants to privatize many of these infrastructure projects. Democrats want infrastructure spending too, but they want it to be done though the government sector, ensuring that union labor is used, which they view as vital to their party.
Again, there’s room for compromise. The private/government provision of infrastructure doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If the tactic is to resist, Democrats give up part of a loaf for none.
Healthcare is the most crucial issue.
The Affordable Care Act is not working. Tens of millions of Americans who were previously uninsured now have insurance that is nearly useless. The deductibles are set at $5,000 to $10,000, making actual health care almost unaffordable.
More tens of millions face higher premiums and loss of personal doctor relationships. Everyone, regardless of party, agrees that the ACA must be fixed. The Dems should be working with the GOP to come up with a solution that reflects at least some of their input. Instead, they just resist any attempt to fix the problem.
At some point, the Democrats will have to realize that negative campaigns do not work anymore. They need a positive message that offers solutions to the problems facing Americans today. It may take fresh leadership to see that; current Democratic leaders are taking the party further down a losing path.