“When they go low, we go high.” These words spoken by our magnificent first lady became the unofficial mantra of the Democratic campaign for 2017. It’s meaning—to fly far above the fray, dust the dirt off your shoulders, and to not grovel with the swine of the earth. However, there’s a missing part to this statement. Yes, First Lady Michelle, in all of her grace and poise, beckoned us to take the high road. Yet, Michelle LaVaugn Robinson would have added, “After they go low, do a Bruce Lee leap in the air and chin check them with a kick to the face…in self-defense of course.” This is the mentality Democrats need to take on—taking the High Road, but willing to take a sharp left at These Legislative Hands Ave.
Normally, I wouldn’t be so invested in the Democrats. Initially, I thought of myself as an “Independent.” Yet, I voted Democrat on a consistent basis. Plus, I’ve looked at the way the Republican party has acted a straight FOOL after electing America’s first Black president. I highly doubt I’d vote for a Republican ever. After being afforded the opportunity to vote for not only a woman, but also the most progressive platform in American history, I knew this was the party I wanted to be a part of. Now that we have a tyrant in office, I’m ready to hit the pavement hard. Still, I’m looking to the Democratic party for guidance with not much avail. As a new member of the party, I have a few suggestions.
Reject Trumpism and not Trump
Immediately after the election, many of you boldly proclaimed to every media outlet that you were willing to “work with Trump.” Even the most “anti-establishment” candidate easily pronounced that he was willing to work with 45. Just to remind you all: You’re not working with Trump! You’re working for the American people! Continuous pronouncements that you’re willing to work with Trump is like listening to your mom and dad have sex. You’re aware it occurs from time to time. You just don’t want them to loudly announce it every night. Outsiders may consider it working with Trump, but in all actuality, you’re working for the American people. Don’t give Trump any credit or hold over you. He wants you to “work” with him to either place the blame at your feet for a failed policy or to take ownership of your success. He’s already started claiming the successes of the previous president. Don’t let him do that to the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party isn’t the party of obstructionism. It’s more like the party of turning the other cheek. And I know without a doubt that America’s first Black president faced an unprecedented amount of obstructionism. Some of us would like for the Democrats to digest a good serving of petty spaghetti and return the favor. And some of us are exhausted with the partisan battles. However, none of us want any of form of Trumpism. Whether you like it or not, the people have deemed you the party of RESISTANCE. OWN IT! You’re not resisting Trump. You’re resisting Trumpism. Using the word Trumpism detracts the attention away from one single man. Plus, Trump loves being the victim. Don’t give him that glory. Don’t give him the ammunition to tweet that he’s being unfairly treated. Attack his ideas. And not him.
Simplify your message.
Y’all have a messaging problem. The biggest problem with your message—you don’t have one. And when you do, it’s way too complicated and disparate. First, get a message. Second, keep it simple. If you don’t, Republicans will do it for you as they have done in the past.
What should be your message? Ultimately, the Democratic party is a party full of diversity of background and thought. Exploit this. Your message should be despite your background, we will fight for your opportunity. As New Jersey candidate for governor Jim Johnson once said on AM Joy, “We’re the party for the people who can’t get into the big fancy parties. We’re the party for the rest of us.” This message has to be translated into policy and simplified for all Americans despite social or economic status. No matter how much of a policy wonk you are (no shade), your policy doesn’t mean squat if voters don’t understand it and its impact on a personal level.
One message that needs to simplified is the message of climate change. The phrase “climate change” has become synonymous with privileged hipsters whose favorite pastime is having hot steamy relations with trees. When it comes to climate change, your message should emphasize environmental justice instead. This message breaks through the classism and elitism that’s associated with the words “climate change,” and it connects to everyday, working-class people.
Being from the 3rd Coast, we deal directly with environmental injustices every day, with little to no recognition from either party. There’s the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, disappearing wetlands in Delacroix Island, sink holes in Assumption parish, toxins in the air from a chemical plant in Mossville and just last year, flooding in Baton Rouge. Nevertheless, when we hear the words “climate change,” what many of us hear is job loss instead of lower flood insurance costs, better infrastructure, clean water and healthier jobs. Louisiana may never flip Blue in a presidential election. However, changing your message will lay the framework for a stronger Democratic presence locally. The same can be said about other issues. Immigration reform is needed to maintain the increase in demand for home ownership, putting more contractors, builders and realtors to work. Criminal justice reform is needed to relieve tax payer burden for low-level offenders, making our streets and police jobs easier and safer. (To paraphrase Senator Kamala Harris, it’s time to be smart about crime instead of just tough on it.) Having a robust healthcare system is needed to drive down premiums and other healthcare costs. (Saying Affordable Healthcare instead of Obamacare would have helped also, but that ship has sailed.) Avoid the jargon, and talk directly to people and how your ideas will impact them directly.
Brand your opponent.
One thing the Republican Party has been great at is branding their opponents, especially Trump. In fact, Trump has been branding his opponents since 2009. He started with the birther movement. He followed that with belittling every Republican in the primary—Little Marco and Lying Ted. Then he came with his closing act, Nasty Woman and Crooked Hillary. How did he make it this far? I mean, he Remy Ma-ed his opponents, exposing their weaknesses and taunting them with them. It’s time for the Democrats to do the same. It’s time for the Democrats to clapback.
Well, what are 45’s weaknesses? It isn’t his erratic tweets. It isn’t his propensity to bully his way to the top. It isn’t his ability to convince people of something that is an apparent lie. In fact, that might be his strongest attribute. His biggest weakness is his fragile ego’s endless pursuit for acceptances among the elite aka “the swamp.” He will do anything for their approval, even if that includes conning America.
This is why Trump’s affinity for Russia is so dicey. Take the focus away from Russia unfairly influencing the election in favor of a Republican candidate. Instead, focus on the fact that a man with purse straps being pulled by Vladamir Putin cannot be trusted to operate in Americans’ best interest. Russian puppet, fake president, Putin’s mistress and the Russian Plug all embody Trump. He’s a wannabe fat cat that’ll scam everyday Americans for “the swamp.” He’s Donald the Scammer. Pounce on this.
Power to the people, not your party.
The Democratic party is no longer yours. It belongs to the people. The resistance is being led by community activist though some of us are still looking for direction from the Democratic party. Has there been clear direction? No. So, now is the time to make the people the face of the party.
There’s been glimmers of hope. Right after Trump’s address to Congress, Astrid Silva did a response for the Democratic party. Even though it was limited in promotion, it pushes the impact of Trumpism away from the Democratic party, but directly on the people. Your job is to promote this. Put these people at the forefront of the Democratic party.
The DNC can’t take all of the credit for the destruction of the American Health Care Act. Neither can the incompetency of Paul Ryan and the Trump administration. That victory belongs to the many activist, organizers, leaders and citizens who petitioned and called their local senators and representatives. How can you motivate these people to vote? By giving these people a platform. Not just during the next DNC convention. People like Khizr Khan and the Mothers of the Movement should be speaking in viral video addresses. They should be on tour speaking with constituents of the Democratic Party. It breaks down the barrier and the perception that the Democratic Party is for itself but for the people. Welcome to the RESISTANCE!