by Todd Smyth
In “Democracy in Chains,” Nancy MacLean says the Koch brothers strategy to re-make our constitution by orchestrating a new constitutional convention, relies on stealth because they know the majority of people would never support their true vision “They use small, inter-related plays that the people will not notice.” I think Trump has been exposing the Koch’s stealth campaign and we need to exploit that mistake, while we can. But we have to do it together.
FreedomWorks was the Koch-funded group that tapped into the racist reaction to Obama, to organize and grow the Tea Party movement, which took over the Republican Party and ultimately produced Trump. They used mostly common marketing and promotion techniques, applied broadly and relentlessly to tap into a growing resentment, anger and selfishness. They used simple, relevant messages like “Lower Taxes, Less Government, More Freedom” repeated over and over again, from every different source and direction. They also showed that they would pander to whatever fetish you might have about guns, gays or abortion. But the Tea Party movement reached out to the fringes to gather up people who are easily fooled and manipulated, to take over the Republican Party – and they succeeded.
The best antidote (to me), in addition to exposing what the Kochs are up to, is to strengthen and expand the base of the Democratic Party in a way that transforms the party from within and produces more progressive results, rather than trying to knock it down and rebuild something new. In other words, we need many more voters who identify as strong Democrats, but who will also hold our candidates accountable. In many ways this is happening organically as a reaction to Trump’s vulgar and self-serving approach to governing. The Kochs’ stealthy hand is showing itself in things like the blatant double standards, handling Supreme Court nomination, etc.
“Indivisible” and “resistance” groups stepped forward in Virginia in 2017 and helped push Democrats (with a big assist from anti-Trump backlash, as exemplified by the Women’s March) from a 4-5 seat pickup to within a coin toss of a 16-seat win that would have taken over the majority. What is missing is an organized effort to market and promote what the Democratic Party has done to create and expand the middle class and to expose the lies of Republican “trickle-down” economics, which has crashed our economy and expanded income inequality every time they take control. We know who our current base voters are. We know how to get a hold of them. We need to preach to our own choir because our choir needs a lot of work. We need to get everyone singing the same song and with the kind of conviction it takes to get more people to listen.
Republicans win by lying their asses off, because the lies often sound better than the truth. Telling people they will cut taxes sounds a lot better than the reality, that they overwhelmingly cut taxes for the rich, cut regulations (aka, protections) to make the rich, richer, and that they will pay for all this by gutting our federal safety net and with massive debt spending, that will crash our economy, which the 99% of us will end up paying for. There is no way forward to take back Congress and the White House to fix the mess we are in without communicating this to many more voters.
Democrats created the middle class, which made America great. From FDR’s New Deal to LBJ’s Great Society, to the Clinton boom and Obama rescue from the Great Recession, Democrats created and grew the middle class, while Republicans opposed that every step of the way. Democrats, unlike Republicans, actually believe in economic and social justice for everyone. We make this happen by investing in the middle class, to grow the economy from the middle out, because that creates a stronger, more stable economy that works better for everyone, rich and poor. For example, passing equal pay for women would move large numbers of people out of poverty and into the middle class. It would also stimulate our economy and it’s one of the most popular policy proposals in the U.S. The only thing getting in the way are Republicans. This is the story of the Democratic Party. The problem with our reality-based messaging is that it isn’t as sexy as “We will cut your taxes.” That is why we have to tear down Republican lies in order to get our message out.
With every branch of government in conservative/right-wing hands now (hopefully not for long!), we have no choice but to unite existing Democratic base voters with Indivisible and “resistance” members, Berniecrats, environmentalists, young people, minorities, as well as moderate men and more elderly. Let’s please do the best we can to finish strong this November 6 and work to get on the same page in 2019 (here in Virginia) and 2020 (across the country)!