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In politics as in medicine, getting the diagnosis wrong can be fatal. The wrong medicine won’t cure what ails you and it’s likely to make things worse.
Democrats will elect a new chairman next week, and none of the 10 contenders appears willing to tell the members of the Democratic National Committee what they need to hear, only what they want to hear. That’s mistaking a palliative for a prescription, and that’s hardly the Rx the Democratic Party needs.
What these “new Democrats” want to hear is that the failures to win elections have nothing to do with their off-the-cliff agenda, that all the party has to do is “communicate better.” No one wants to hear right now that the party’s agenda stinks, and it needs more than a stronger deodorant.
“We didn’t get our message out” is not only self-serving, but self-delusional, too. It’s an eerie echo of what followed the Democrats’ electoral debacles of 2014, 2010 and 1994. The party still hasn’t come to the terms with the possibility that maybe — just maybe — voters just won’t buy what they’re trying to sell.
“We didn’t communicate our values to people,” Thomas Perez, Barack Obama’s secretary of Labor, says. He is thought to be the front-runner for the chairmanship. “Our response to [Mr. Trump} was ‘vote for us, because he’s crazy.’ I’ll stipulate to that, but that’s not a message.”
If Hillary Clinton had told the truth about her “message” and her “values,” the results likely would have been worse for Democrats. Pete Buttegieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., echoes the Perez analysis. “We said, ‘I’m against him because he’s terrible.’ He is terrible, [of course], but the people at home were saying, ‘Who is talking to me? Who is talking about me?’ Everything we talk about has to be explained in terms of how it directly touches people’s actual lives.”
Democrats have a tough time, however, explaining or defending how, for example, Obamacare has touched people’s lives in a positive way, much less how enabling sexually-confused men to use ladies’ rooms will make their lives better. The goofy gets in the way of the serious.
The Democratic Party agenda, like Hillary’s, was the equivalent of New Coke and just as hard to sell. No amount of “messaging” made it taste any better. It’s like the famous marketing story about a new dog food. “It’s great,” the marketing men said. Everything we know about it is good, but the dogs won’t eat it.”
The candidates for party chairman tried to outdo one another in raging against Donald Trump, even while complaining that the party is too focused on attacking him. Calling Mr. Trump “crazy,” “terrible,” “dangerous, “destructive,” “misogynistic,” and a “chicken hawk” makes the hearts of some of the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee go all aflutter, but it persuades almost no one in the conservative red states and Midwestern purple states that have abandoned the party they say first abandoned them.
No one among them suggests that the party must move toward the center if the Democrats want to redeem what they lost in November. Every candidate wants only to tout his liberal bona fides and boast that he despises President Trump more than any of the others. Democrats are taking away only the wrong lessons from Nov. 8. They should be beyond the first stages of grief by now, and it’s too bad for everyone that they aren’t. The nation needs competing rational political parties to balance the conversation. Right now the Democrats are talking only to themselves, and they’re listening to gibberish. There’s just no market for that, as they insist on learning the hard way.
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