Although defeating Donald Trump is one essential goal for this fall’s campaign, that should be seen less as an end in itself than as one important means toward the ultimate goal, which is to be able to move the nation in a positive direction.
There is every reason to believe that the Republicans in Congress, if they are able, will do to a new Democratic President what they’ve been doing for more than seven years to the current Democratic President: use their power to obstruct progress on all fronts.
For that reason, a wise Democratic campaign should be designed also to minimize Republican power in Congress. Two campaign themes can achieve that purpose. In addition to tying down-ticket Republican candidates to the defects of their grotesque standard-bearer, the Democrats should run against Republican obstructionism.
One of the main lines from the speeches from Democratic nominee for president should be, “Give me a Congress whose priority is the good of the nation.”
That theme is a necessary supplement to the set of issues on which Hillary Clinton has been has been campaigning, and which will, of course, remain essential to the campaign. It remains important for her to seek to inspire the people with a vision for a better America.
But all the campaign talk about issues is largely just the expression of a wish, with no likely relation to future reality, unless this across-the-board obstructionist control by the Republicans in Congress can be eliminated. And that is a reality that must not be ignored.
Neither Democratic candidate has seemed eager, during their contest, to talk much about the Republican roadblock in the way of almost all they propose. Perhaps they worried that voters would find it depressing. Perhaps they feared that voters don’t have the stomach to face the reality that the task that needs doing is larger than electing them president.
But telling the truth about this big problem of Republican obstructionism doesn’t have to be a downer. It can help ignite something. It can be a way of motivating the voters to do the job America needs for them to do.
After the Democratic nominee presents her issues in an inspiring form (think here of FDR’s great “I see an America” speech), she can continue:
“But for us to move toward that better America, I need for you to elect a Congress eager to do its job on behalf of the people. And our experience in recent years shows clearly what that requires: kicking out the obstructionist Republicans and electing Democrats to Congress.
“I understand why some people – on both sides of our partisan divide — have been eager this year to ‘shake things up’ in our politics. But really, it’s clear what kind of shaking up we most urgently need: fixing the problem of our ‘broken government’ has to start with the people rejecting those who deliberately chose to break it.
“These Republican obstructionists have deliberately jabbed a stick through the spokes of government to prevent our nation from moving forward. In putting party ahead of the good of the nation, these Republicans have betrayed the people’s trust.”
Democratic candidates – top to bottom, and around the nation – can use this straight-forward truth to rally the people to get these obstructionist congressional Republicans out of power.
We can look to two sources of passion to fuel a potential Democratic landslide:
• a vision of the better America, to touch Americans’ yearning to move forward rather than to stagnate and deteriorate, and
• a call to send the obstructionists packing, to tap into Americans’ evident readiness to rise up against a system that clearly is not serving them well.
That’s a combination that might capture both the presidency and the Congress.
“I pledge to you, my fellow Americans, that I will do everything in my power as president to move the nation forward. The most important thing you can do now is ‘Give me a Congress that will make a better America – not partisan advantage– its priority.’
“‘If the president was for it, we had to be against it.’ Those were the Republicans’ marching orders as we know from former Republican Senator from Ohio George Voinovich. That’s not how our founders intended for their wonderful system to work.
“The system our founders set up – with divisions of powers and checks and balances– wasn’t supposed to cripple the country. It was supposed to teach people how to work together to move the nation forward.
“Give me a Congress that wants to work with me for the good of the nation.”