by Bill Partsch


I’m thinking about doing this for a living.

Written by Bill Partsch at 5:16 am on November 7, 2017
Last updated at 12:37 am on November 29, 2017

Two Words

Massive thanks to Stephanie Kelton and George Lakoff for getting to the pith of the matter. Their fingerprints are all over what follows.

Truman and Roosevelt having lunch August 1944
From left (in more ways than one), Truman and Roosevelt, two guys who knew how to Be Democrats, in part by not allowing Republicans to eat their lunch. (August 18, 1944. Credit: AP)

Hey, Democrats. How’s it going? Not so great, I’ve noticed. Party needs a pick-me-up—stat! Well, it turns out I’ve found just the thing: two words. Think of them as medicine or vitamins, take them regularly, and they will pull the Democratic Party out of its stupor, give it the strength to lift hundreds of millions of Americans, and make it feel up to 84 years younger: Be Democrats.

Pretty straightforward, right? Thinking about earning votes of working-class Americans? Be Democrats. Pondering how to confront climate change sooner than later? Be Democrats. Want to put Americans to work on infrastructure and/or create millions of jobs? Be Democrats. Oh, and do you want to build an America where hard-working people truly share in the prosperity their hard work helps bring about? Well, then not only do you need to Be Democrats, you need to get the word out.

What I Mean by “Be Democrats”

First off, Being Democrats means continuing along the path of the best Democratic achievements from the past 100 years. Specifically, that means:

  • Invest in the nation to update infrastructure, put people to work, and help those who need help, like retraining workers whose jobs are disappearing.
  • Point out that this is how capitalism works: You make an investment, you get a return. Invest nothing, you get nothing. Invest unwisely, you lose.
  • Remind everyone that savvy investors buy low. Accordingly, we must invest in people, places, and industries that have yet to reach their full potential. When we invest wisely in America, we come up roses, because our land and we, the people, are chock full of value and worth.
  • Let America know that we are in this together. We are a nation. We are the United States. When we stand united, we prosper and grow. When we split apart, we collapse.
  • Stay positive, passionate, and steadfast. Do not give in to anger, hatred, and fear.

These are the values that produced the New Deal, Medicare, Social Security, and the Civil Rights Act. They made this nation better, saved lives, expanded liberty and gave more people a shot at pursuing happiness. They made America a more perfect union.

How To Be Democrats
Step one: Stop being Republicans!

  • Stop using Republican words to define issues.1Use these words instead: estate tax (not death tax), earned-income benefits (not entitlements), protection (not regulation), watch dogs (not regulators), and investment in America (not government spending).
  • Stop using Republican ideas to govern.2The Affordable Care Act was Orrin Hatch’s baby—in the 1990s.
  • And please, stop using Republican tactics to run election campaigns.3Republicans are all about fear and anger: “Don’t vote for that! That’s bad!” Democrats should show America what we can do. Show everyone something to vote for.
Republicans Lost Their Minds…

The demonizing of Democrats began with Ronald Reagan. Republicans had always been the “pro-business” party, but their embrace of supply-side economics turned them into the anti-worker, greed-is-God party.

Then, in league with ruthless marketing geniuses and savvy media manipulators, Republicans convinced struggling Americans that fellow citizens were enemies and big corporations were superheroes coming to rescue them. The America they have sold is a grotesque distortion of the founding fathers’ “e pluribus unum” vision. In fact, Republicans’ divide-and-conquer strategy, which continues in full flower to this day, has been so successful that we are far closer to the disintegration of the republic. I suppose they’ll then have to reprint all the currency to read, “ex uno plures,” or “from one, many.”

…and Democrats Lost Their Groove

In the face of the 1980s onslaught, Democrats somehow started believing they could no longer Be Democrats and win. Big mistake. Democrats lost their bite and lost their self-confidence, but mostly, they just lost—and lost and lost and lost. There was a brief window eight years ago when Democrats had the reins of government. Even then, however, their lack of guts and lack of guile allowed a confused public to stray back into the den of smooth-talking vipers.

FDR's Second Bill of Rights

Here’s what I mean! This is what people want. Create the programs, publicize the shit out of them. When you win, spend the money and make them happen, and you will keep on winning.

 

It didn’t have to be this way. The reasons for our current mess are myriad, but many of them include the failure of Democrats to Be Democrats. Time after time in the past couple decades, when progressives have asked Democrats to take the lead and go big—to Be Democrats—the leadership steered attention elsewhere, snake-bit into believing populism was unpopular.

Boy, were they ever wrong about that. The 2016 campaign showed this in spades. Look what happened when Bernie Sanders offered compassionate populist proposals to the party faithful: They gobbled it up like they had been starving for it, which they had.

Yo, (D): Work On Your O

Democrats would be wise in the wake of the Sanders campaign to seize the opportunity to Be Democrats again. For a reminder of how leaving populism to the other side works out, I remind Democrats of another two words, the carcinogenic opposite of “Be Democrats:” Tea Party.

That brings us to a crucial factor in returning the party to its rightful place of prominence: offense, i.e., getting the word out. Democrats have wasted too much time on defense, trying—and failing—to chew through Republican static and propaganda. In general, their defense has been flaccid; their offense, muddled. Republicans dominate the debate, and Democrats play catch-up. This is a losing strategy.

If Democrats are truly going to Be Democrats—and they kind of have to, now, don’t they?— they need to get especially creative on offense, and they need to be on offense as close to always as possible. Don’t let the game come to you; take it to the GOP.

Get Creative, Outmaneuver

This will require a responsive, imaginative game plan rooted in solid fundamentals. Democrats need policies and values that are self-evidently helpful and moral. What’s more, to get the word out, they need an army to circulate truth, compassion, unity, and justice for all to every vessel, fiber, and follicle of the body politic. They should be able to mobilize these truth-tellers en masse with a phone call or a Tweet.

Of course, Republicans will push back, but with leadership, planning, training, and practice, Democrats can give 100 times harder than they get. When the right wing finger-wags any attempts to actually create jobs and spread the blessings of liberty, Democrats should crush them with their own weapons. Call them unpatriotic. Question their loyalty. Never let them forget how wretchedly they have defiled Christianity and the Constitution. Show how they have violated and continue to violate their oaths of office.

Here’s why: America is on our side. It’s really true: More Americans want what Democrats want; they just don’t know—or worse, don’t trust—the Democratic Party’s level of commitment.

How To Be Democrats
Step Two: Remake the message, reframe the debate.

  • Form consensus on issues that affect all Americans regardless of gender, age, ancestry, beliefs, biology, or prosperity.4i.e., a more perfect union.
  • Establish that wealthy and powerful law breakers will meet the same justice that confronts less privileged Americans.5i.e., justice.
  • Ensure Constitutional freedoms while guarding against those who would exploit those freedoms to harm Americans.6i.e., domestic tranquility. (You can see where this is headed by now, I presume.)
  • Provide and maintain the world’s finest military to defend the homeland and America’s allies.7i.e., for the common defense.
  • Promote access for all Americans to life’s general necessities—food, water, shelter, health, work.8i.e., the general welfare.
  • Secure the freedom for all Americans to pursue personal happiness by protecting the less powerful from racial, sexual, religious, financial, or any other kind of oppression or persecution.9i.e., the blessings of liberty.

Seems like a lot to process, but if you’re going to rebuild, you need a solid foundation, and it’s hard to find a more bedrock source than the founders. Go ahead and dare Republicans to challenge the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Report To The Democratic Principles Office

If Democrats insistently communicate a positive, productive message that cuts through all the penny-ante crap, they’ll win. A lot of Democrats, however, have become ensnared in a subterfuge of petty right-wing distractions.

Let’s clear some cobwebs. Here are a couple fundamental truths that Democrats can build stout and sturdy campaigns upon:

  1. The U.S. is a nation of abundance. Our land and population are immense, diverse, and rich. When Republicans say, “Sorry, there’s not enough for you,” remember this: They are lying (or confused or oblivious). There’s way more than they want you to believe. This may come as news to most, but the amount of cash available to the government is theoretically infinite. (I’ll get into this more in a future post, but it is 100% true, thanks to the Constitution and—surprise!—Richard Nixon.)
  2. We’re in this together. Yes, I have hammered this point, but it’s kind of important seeing as it’s the first word in the name of the country! As Americans, we have individual rights to unspool the threads of our respective lives. But the nation is not a collection of loose threads; it’s a fabric, and we must keep America whole, strong and vibrant.

These truths should strike everyone as self-evident. Of course, they’re the exact opposite of Republicans’ core strategy: deprive and divide. To scrub these cancerous attitudes and policies, Democrats must inundate the nation with the virtues of generosity and unity.

Yes, We F’ing Can!

People naturally respond generously when others face adversity. If an area loses drinking water, tractor-trailers full of bottled water show up. When floods ravage a city, strangers send clothing, food, toiletries, and other essentials. Charitable donations skyrocket.

The infrastructure for distributing such aid, like all infrastructure, requires continuous monitoring, upkeep, and modernization. Similarly, Democrats need to implement and maintain a network to distribute refreshing, revitalizing, necessary values and policies wherever and whenever there’s a prolonged drought of morals and morale.

The task in front of Democrats is epic. The good news: The party can tackle this challenge undaunted. Millions are waiting to hoist the nation back on track. They need leadership, though, and a lot of them perceive the Democratic Party as somewhere between sleepwalking and catatonic. So the time has come to let Americans know the party has awoken full of vim and pep.

It’s time. America needs us. Let’s go out there—and Be Democrats.

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