Living in Society

Democrats In McConnellville

 McConnellville (Greensburg, Kansas May 7, 2007). Photo Credit – FEMA

Mitch McConnell must miss Harry Reid and Barack Obama.

Without their foil he’s got no one to blame but himself for failing to craft a legislative agenda to support the Republican president.

He tries to blame Democrats but it falls flat.

McConnell’s agenda is built on the flawed expectation that legislation can only be passed based on Republican priorities. The approach is bound to fail in a time citizens pay more attention to politics and increasingly hold members of congress accountable.

The majority leader gets credit for holding his caucus together when Senate Republicans were in the minority. His tactics were brilliant, however, since they won the trifecta in the 2016 general election he’s been like a ship without a rudder — demonstrating the craven, whining, victimized and ultimately ineffective strategy that has been present all along.

The same electorate that gave Republicans a big 2016 win will take their power away. Trouble is the corporate media narrative — that “Democrats don’t know what they stand for” will delay this inevitable outcome.

In a July 16 Associated Press article, Steve Peoples and Bill Barrow asserted the narrative in “Dems still strive to tell voters what their party stands for.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley hesitated when asked about his party’s core message to voters.

“That message is being worked on,” the New York congressman said in an interview this past week. “We’re doing everything we can to simplify it, but at the same time provide the meat behind it as well. So that’s coming together now.”

The admission from the No. 4 House Democrat — that his party lacks a clear, core message even amid Republican disarray — highlights the Democrats’ dilemma eight months after President Donald Trump and the GOP dominated last fall’s elections, in part, because Democrats lacked a consistent message.

Many of us remember Bill Clinton’s famous campaign assertion, “it’s the economy stupid.” It made for good press stories almost three decades ago. Today the Democratic Party is both more diverse, and part of a larger electorate where party registration is less important. A simplistic and all-encompassing, “core message” would be so watered down as to render it meaningless. The fact there are political parties at all is less relevant than the cultural aspects of an electorate that can turn an Obama voter into a Trump voter. The narrative “Democrats don’t know what they stand for” is fake as a three-dollar bill. Just ask a Democrat and they will tell you what they stand for.

Democrats should not hope for relief from McConnell’s craven allegiance to libertarian financial backers. The Senate majority leader is a pawn in their game, one being played in shadows by a dark money network. A media narrative about Democrats lacking a consistent message plays to dark money strengths by asserting the problem in politics is us, not them.

In response to a Republican majority, Senator Chuck Schumer has been able to hold his caucus together, at least on the first couple health care bills. As Mitch McConnell’s tenure in the minority demonstrated, such tactics may create some wins, but are no substitute for strategy.

The trouble in McConnellville is different from the media narrative about Democrats. The majority leader’s expectation Democrats should join Republicans to craft legislation is laughable. The fact of voter engagement in politics by contacting elected officials effectively shut down the first three Senate proposals for repealing the Affordable Care Act. Voters are becoming more a part of the legislative mix than any political party is willing to acknowledge. Democrats should pay attention to this dynamic and leverage it for wins in 2020 and maybe 2018.

Here’s a core message for partisan elected officials, “we’re the party that doesn’t do stupid stuff.” That’s a message that makes sense. How I wish it were true.