The problem with the Democratic party is poor messaging. In 2016 people that voted for Trump, really had more in common with the Democratic Platform, but nobody explained that to them. A good way to share the Democratic message is through listening tours scheduled in high republican/Trump counties.
Gerrymandering has painted too many districts deep red, but the individuals living in them cannot be discarded. A percentage of the residents will be democrat, independent or disillusioned republicans. If the party message connects, they will eventually talk amongst themselves. Grassroots spread.
A key to conveying a message is: One Messenger/One Message. The Democrats have a "Clinton wing", a "Warren wing", a "Sanders wing" and so on, but the ultimate goals of these diverse groups are so similar that these divisions are meaningless. Democrats must have a united front and a clear message to remain a national party. Of course, while surrogates will speak to key demographics, there can be only one titular head of the party in 2018, one national voice. As the political climate begins to focus on the White House in 2020, the party's nominee will inherit the mantle of spokesperson. It's sad when pundit after pundit ask Democrats, "Who is the leader of your party?" and they stammer like Porky Pig!
The more general Democratic problem of focusing on the White House is that it neglects the "State House". Democrats need to take back the seats of local government. Cultivate and support Democrats for local races, no matter how insignificant the office they seek may appear. The Democratic political bench is not a weak as is often implied, there are fantastic people who are activist, school board members and much more. Yet, somehow, some republicans run for local office unopposed. In the current situation, rebuilding the bench, every local seat should have a Democratic challenger, no republicans should be running unopposed.
What do Democrats need to tell voters so that they understand that the Democratic party is the place for them?
First, keep the message as simple as possible. A large percentage of voters never go to web sites just to read long, nuanced candidate platforms, it comes down to semantics. Gun owners don't want to hear about new gun laws or gun restrictions, therefore, they need to hear that Democrats do NOT want to take away everyone's GUNS! Democrats just want common sense "rules of the road" that protect second amendment rights, but more importantly, protect human life. Polls show that 92% of gun owners are for universal background checks which means that legislation to that effect should easily pass through congress but sadly, members on both sides have an allegiance to Wayne Lapierre and vote accordingly. Every Democrat either is a hunter or knows a hunter, soldier or police office and these groups usually favor common sense gun policies. While it seems that a gun for needed by some as personal protection, it is merely an illusion. The "bad guy" has their gun in hand, locked and loaded and if some individual reaches for their personal gun, the results would be deadly.
Another issue with a similar messaging problem is abortion. No one is "Pro-Abortion", but similarly no one wants the government to control their body. The irony of a party that wants big government out of their life while being perfectly fine with big government controlling a woman's personal reproductive health cannot be understated. Those same Republicans will not tolerate the government regulating pollution from coal mines flowing in to the air and water. People need to understand that the very things Republicans attack are the things the minimize abortions. The keys to reducing a large number of unwanted pregnancies are simple; education, contraception, and support. The goal is "safe, legal and rare". Republicans overlooked all of Donald Trump's less than Christian past because appointing an anti-choice judge to the Supreme Court was more important than their personal morality. Without calling it "Christian", the Democratic platform is far more "Christ-like" than the GOP platform. Caring for the sick, the poor, less fortunate while expecting personal responsibility to help themselves move forward. Americans certainly should enjoy freedom of religion as well as freedom FROM religion. Either we are all free or no one is free.
Republicans used to know what it meant to be fiscally responsible yet they cannot understand how preventing chronic illness is CHEAPER than treating chronic illness just as treating opiate addiction is cheaper than arresting, jailing, or burying the addicts. The new "Just Say No" program will fail just as it did for Nancy Reagan. Democrats can and should repackage and sell the Affordable Care Act with the fixes it needs. Republicans who value personal responsibility don't seem to understand that under the GOP system, more people will use emergency rooms and be unable to pay, thus sticking THEM with the cost in the form of high medical bills. Break the Affordable Care Act into its component parts because most people want pre-existing conditions protected and most are glad they can keep their adult child on until age 26. If America is truly the "Greatest Country on Earth" we should be able to cover people with solid healthcare as part of a private/public option.
Democrats must remind people that things like infrastructure projects aren't "spending", they are investments. The highway system developed under Eisenhower was the key to a great economic boom. Investing in green technology was not picking winners or losers, it was a way to jump start the energy sources of the future. Under republican leadership, America is abdicating its place as a world leader in terms of energy. They wouldn't be just simply "spending", they would be investing in America.
Another way to invest in the economy is establishing a federal living wage and of course equal pay for equal work because nothing stimulates the economy more than a thriving middle class. Trump voters must be shown how small businesses are powered by the middle class, not the top 1%. Corporate profits are rising but those profits trickle down only as far as the boardroom floor which means the middle class sees none of the benefits.
Democrats understand that diversity and assimilation are what makes America the "shining city on a hill". Every person deserves dignity and respect. Democrats are also patriots who want America strong, respected, clean, safe, and TRULY GREAT! Currently the Democrats are using the rather unfortunate slogan of "A Better Deal". Perhaps it would be better to say: "After years of FAKE, Democrats are the REAL DEAL!"
Democrats must never take their base for granted in the same manner that they cannot give up on convincing independent and middleclass republicans that they fight for everyone's chance to have a better, more fulfilling life. A better chance of achieving the American dream. The chance of having something real. A REAL DEAL.
Contributing Editor: Paul Heimsath
My name is Paul Heimsath, I grew up in Florissant Missouri, not far from the infamous Ferguson. My parents worked hard but from time to time we struggled financially. On Christmas my dad would take our one present apart and wrapped the pieces so it looked like we each had five presents under the tree. I went to private Catholic schools from first grade through high school. During lean financial times, our parish would cover the tuition. I worked three jobs to put my self through Community College achieving a degree in Art and Advertising. I had no idea that my first job out of college would be the best job I ever had. I have been married for 25 years to my wife Michelle and we have two children Andrew and Allison. Shortly after we were married my wife became severely ill and was disabled. The Affordable care act saved her life. She recently completed her bachelor's degree and works as a home healthcare nurse. Now I'm trying to pursue my dreams... which does not include retail management.