What with the self-sustaining tire fire that is Il Trumpe, it’s tempting to focus on Trump’s myriad gaffes and failings–they are amazing in a car-wreck sort of way. While they do need to be highlighted, I think Democrats are losing their way in all of this. Or, as we like to say, people have to like this crap.
For Democrats (and independent highly-likely Democrats), focusing on Trump’s flaws is appealing (to me as well). But that’s not what’s going to excite people. If you think back to the Democratic primary, Sanders really took off when he started promising that people would get good stuff if he were elected: a higher minimum wage, free public college tuition, better healthcare, an end to trade deals that historically have screwed the middle class, and so on. I don’t want to get into a policy argument about this, since we’re dealing with rhetoric, but those issue served him very well (I’ve made this point before, but many people over thirty, give or take, completely underestimated how critical Sanders’ college tuition stand was for drumming up support among the under thirty set).
Where Sanders went off the rails–and I say this as a Sanders supporter from day one–is when he started emphasizing corruption and revolution at the expense of the good stuff. There’s nothing wrong with noting how corruption leads to the absence of good stuff, but, too often, that link wasn’t being made, especially by his surrogates and followers.
Clinton, when she was focused on the historical nature of potentially being the first woman president and on her ‘competence’, didn’t do so well either. It was when she started talking about the concrete things her presidency would bring: Supreme Court justices, a higher minimum wage, her own college tuition plan, her child care plan (which she cribbed from Sanders), and so on, she started to regain her front runner position.
To be clear, I’m not arguing that Clinton should be talking in policy position language. And to her credit, Clinton herself is emphasizing her policy positions–because people have to like this crap. But her surrogates as well as ‘unaligned allies’ (pundits, bloggers, media personalities, etc.) aren’t doing this. Someone who views voting as a chore and hasn’t really been paying attention (and wants to pay as little attention as possible)–that is to say, most voters–need to hear clear messages about how they and those they care about will be better off with Clinton than Trump (not a hard argument to make in my opinion).
Democrats and those who might vote Democratic aren’t Palinists: they’re not looking solely for symbolism, but also for things that will make their (or others’) lives better in concrete ways. Democrats forget this at our peril.