Electoral Advice for the Democratic and Republican Parties

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Democrats

On the surface, the 2020 elections were a great success for the Democratic Party. After all, they now control the White House and both houses of Congress. But not so fast. The last time that happened was after the 2008 election. What happened next? Just two years later, the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives and didn’t regain a majority for another eight years. In 2014, they lost control of the Senate and in 2016 the White House as well.


The truth is that the 2020 elections were almost a complete disaster for the Democrats. If Donald Trump had not been such a weak and hapless candidate, the Democrats would have been wiped out across the board. The Democrats thought they had a chance to recapture the Senate with a clear majority. Instead they had to settle for a 50-50 split with Vice-President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. The Democrats thought they could expand their advantage in the House of Representatives. Instead their lead shrunk from 35 seats to 10. Gubernatorial elections? Democratic candidates won only three of eleven states up for grabs. On a percentage basis, this was the worst Democratic performance in 100 years. Worst of all, despite having ten years to organize, they failed to flip a single state legislature, thus leaving the Republicans the power to create post-Census Congressional districts in 20 states with only seven for the Democrats.


There has been a lot of analyzing and finger-pointing about why the Democratic Party failed so miserably. But, for me, there are two statistics that stand out more than any other.


Of the 15 poorest states, based on median household income, Donald Trump won 14 and Joe Biden just one (New Mexico). Of the 14 states with the lowest median wage, Trump won 13 and Biden one (New Mexico again).


Here’s another statistic: Of the 18 states with the largest percentage of rural citizens, 15 voted for Trump. Why does this matter? Because those 15 states, despite accounting for barely 15% of the U.S. population, choose 30 of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate.


So what should Democrats do avoid another electoral disaster?


The simple answer is: Put money in people’s pockets? How?

1. Give everybody but the richest Americans a check or debit card for $1,000 every month. All those Americans who received a check for $1,250 as part of the pandemic relief were happy about it. The fact that this was peanuts in comparison to the billions that the super-rich received did not register with possible swing voters. $1,000 a month for each family member—voters will take notice.

2. Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. On November 3, voters in Florida voted for Donald Trump. But that same day, Floridians became the first citizens of a state to vote in favor of a $15 an hour minimum wage. Wealthy donors might object, but Americans who work for a living, or wish they could, would be grateful.


And the rural vote?

1. Provide more hospitals in all rural areas.

2. Ensure that high-speed internet is available to everyone.

3. Enforce antitrust legislation.

4. Give priority to helping family farms instead of providing tax breaks and aid for large agribusiness corporations, such as Tyson Foods, JBS and Cargill.


When he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised to help family farmers. Instead he chose Tom Vilsack to be his Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack spent eight years doing more to help agribusiness corporations than small farmers. For his Secretary of Agriculture, Joe Biden chose…Tom Vilsack. Goodbye rural vote.


The Republicans

Traditionally, meaning for the last several generations, Republicans were considered the party of the rich and the Democrats the party of everyone else. From a writer’s point-of-view, this made the Republican Party the more interesting one because you can’t win an election if only rich people vote for you. So, every two years, the Republicans have had to come up with a narrative to convince people who aren’t rich to vote for them. Sometimes that argument has been: “Sure we’re rich. If you want to become rich too, vote for Republican candidates.” Usually, though, the Republicans have created a reason why voters should be afraid of the Democrats. One year it might be, “Democrats are in favor of gay marriage.” Another year, “Democrats want to legalize marijuana.” Another year, “Democrats can’t be trusted to protect our country against our enemies” or “Democrats are soft on crime.” Or “Democrats are communists or socialists.”


I learned early about the “Socialist” slander when I was still in high school in 1964. Two classmates approached me. One said, “David, you’re a socialist.” The other added, “Of course David’s a socialist; he’s a Jew.” And they walked away laughing. I most definitely was not a socialist. So what had I done to earn this insult? I had said that African-Americans (then known as Negroes) deserved equal rights, including the right to vote.


In 2020, the Republican Party used all of the arguments listed above. But the Republicans have also learned another lesson: It really isn’t necessary to win over a majority of voters. In 2000 and 2016, most Americans voted for the Democratic candidate for president, but the second-place Republicans took over the White House anyway. Add together the votes cast for the current 100 members of the Senate and the Democrats again have the advantage, but the Republicans have half of the senators. As for the Supreme Court, this is the first time in U.S. history that a majority of the judges were approved by senators representing fewer than 50% of American voters. Who cares about winning over a majority of U.S. voters if you can get what you want without them?


So, if the Republicans want to increase their power, they need to make swing voters afraid of the Democrats, while at the same time limiting the number of Democrats who vote and weakening the power of those who do by gerrymandering the districts in the states they control.


One piece of advice for Republicans when it comes to demonizing Democrats: Stop attacking Medicare for All. Automatically accusing all Democrats of being socialists or communists or terrorists might work with Republican voters, but treating Medicare for All as something terrible could backfire. People on Medicare overwhelmingly like it and would be glad if Medicare could be extended to younger groups. Just as public opinion shifted on gay marriage and legalizing marijuana, the same could happen with Medicare for All.


Also, the Republicans have a surefire secret weapon. It’s called the Democratic Party. Given the chance to be in charge, the Democrats, because of corruption and incompetence, will eventually screw up. Since there is only one other major party, if the Republicans can just shut up, disgusted swing voters will turn to them to get rid of the Democrats.

-David Wallechinsky


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