Why is the Democratic Party Brand So Toxic?

Many of us are sitting and watching the Alabama senate race with much curiosity and bewilderment. We are sitting, watching, feeling helpless and perplexed at this race that is seemingly a coin flip. How can it be that an obvious child pedophile is, at a minimum, tied in the election for the Alabama Senate seat.  The easiest question for a Democrat to ask while watching this race is “What in god’s name is wrong with the people of Alabama?”. The more difficult, but practical question to ask is, “Why are the people of Alabama so repulsed by the Democratic party that they would vote for a candidate with multiple accusations of child pedophilia?“ 

While Alabama is currently the electoral focus of the country right now, this sentiment regarding the Democrat party is not unique to Alabama. The Democratic Party has suffered enormous losses in the last 10 years. During Barack Obama’s tenure, the net loss of state and federal Democratic posts was 1,042. That includes losing the presidency, the senate, the house, state legislatures, governorships and as result, control over the Supreme Court.

The Democratic Party can do two things with these loses. It can blame the voters and citizens of the United States as Hillary Clinton did when she called them “deplorables”. Or it can do a bit of self-reflecting and analysis in order to recalibrate its strategy to try to win back voters and rebrand its image. Only the latter of those two options has the potential for sustain electoral success and that is the question this post will seek to analyze.

There is no doubt that the Republican Party is immeasurably worse and more dangerous than the Democrats, but this post will not compare the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. It will ignore who the Republican Party is. It will focus squarely on who the Democratic Party is and who it should be. In no way whatsoever should any part of this piece be interpreted as an endorsement to vote for a Republican. 

Now let's get started.

What the hell is wrong with the Democratic Party?

A lot, but for starters, the Democratic Party has not represented the interests of working class Americans. For the last 30 years, it hasn’t mattered which party was in power. Working and middle class Americans have struggled under both Republicans and Democrats. Average Americans, who have become more productive workers, have seen their wages stagnate, benefits disappear, unions destroyed, healthcare cost skyrocket and tuition debt explode. At the same time, Americans are also witnessing the wealth  of those at the top echelons of the income ladder explode. While all this has gone on, we’ve watched the Republicans become a radical right wing party drunk on the Kool-Aid of never ending tax cuts and deregulation and, instead of representing the interests of workers and middle class families like the ‘New Deal Democrats’ of the 1930’s, the Democrat Party has moved to the center to represent Wall Street, insurance companies and other big corporate interests.

The Democratic Party is the party of Wall Street. It was President Bill Clinton who deregulated Wall Street and repealed Glass-Steagall. It was 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton who spent her time getting $225,000 a speech from Goldman Sachs. It was Barack Obama who received more money from Wall Street in his 2008 campaign than any other candidate in history and went on to fill his cabinet with Wall Street bankers.

The Democratic Party has not offered anything of substantiation to anyone except the very few elites who benefit from the status quo for decades. Barack Obama’s nuanced, technocratic and incremental approach to progress was an epic failure. Every Democratic incremental achievement over his 8 years as president has not only been repealed, but it has gone in the opposite direction of progress. Take healthcare for example. The GOP tax bill has repealed the Obamacare mandate and Trump has cut off the cost sharing subsidies to the insurance companies. The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, is effectively gone. It might as well have never existed and furthermore, in a couple of months Americans are going to be in an even worse predicament when the GOP cuts Medicare and Medicaid. While President Barack Obama’s level headedness may have guided America through a very dangerous recession, any and all of his achievements may have just as well never existed. Although it may never have passed, if President Obama and the Democratic Party had offered a bold progressive idea, such as Medicare For All, the entire country would know that the party supports bold progressive ideas. Instead we were left with a market based system with universally dissatisfied consumers who were and still are dealing with skyrocketing premiums and high deductibles. Additionally, the country is still left with 33 million people uninsured, while health insurance companies rake in enormous profits. This is Democratic Party policy. 

The Democrats have not stood up to the system that has abandoned workers and middle class families. They have not assertively stated that workers are paid too little, that unions are under assault, that healthcare is a right, that college education is a right. That financial institutions need to be held accountable for predatory behavior.

The Democrats messaging and positioning on the abhorrent GOP tax bill has been particularly atrocious. The tax bill that we are witnessing come to fruition is the culmination of 30 years of a conservative movement to redistribute wealth from the middle class to the richest and wealthiest people in the history of the world. The current tax bill is a profound restructuring of our society that takes more and more away from the vast majority of Americans and deposits it into the bank accounts of the very few. There can be no doubt that this is an assault on middle class Americans, and how has the Democratic Party responded?

By tweeting out pictures of Ronald Reagan and calling for Bipartisanship on Tax Reform.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer added his tweet as well:

What are they talking about? What are they doing? Who are they appealing to? The current GOP tax bill IS Reagonmics on steroids. There is literally no middle ground to walk between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. Furthermore, if you were put a pin in the starting point where middle class wages stagnated, private pensions were eliminated, benefits disappeared and unions disintegrated it starts exactly at Ronald Reagan.

I would like to know, what is the Tax Reform issue that Chuck Schumer thinks is ripe for bipartisan compromise? What is the compromise on a tax bill that takes an enormous amount of wealth from the poor and middle class and gives it to the richest members of our society? Is it just to give the wealthy half of what they are getting in this bill? This GOP Tax bill is wrong on every issue, so it begs the question, which part do the Democrats want to be a part of? You can’t compromise with someone who is trying to drive the car off the cliff. You get them to stop and you reverse course. It is unclear what the Democratic Party message is on this. 

The best way I can interpret it is that they want to tell their big money donors, who want tax cuts, that Democrats also want to cut their taxes, but Republicans wouldn’t let them join in. So it’s still OK to send their big checks to the DNC.

It is time the Democratic Party reconciles with these hard truths. It is not enough anymore to say, "we are better than the Republicans". That hasn't helped.

The Democrat Party has offered almost nothing to poor and middle class Americans in red states. Democrats don’t just lose to Republicans; they lose to apathy, because a large section of voters see no reason to show up at the booths and they have lost complete interest.

Compare the effect a bold progressive policy agenda would have versus the messaging the Democrats tested out earlier this year.

Have you seen the other guys? That was their message. To this day, I still can’t get over it. They had just lost to the “other guys” in one of the most embarrassing electoral disasters in history and their message for the next election is "Have you seen the other guys?" This message is a last ditch effort from a party that has no ideas and no arguments. 

Compare the Democratic Party messaging on the GOP tax bill to that of FDR’s 1936 address announcing a Second New Deal:
We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.”

Who is the Democratic party welcoming hatred from today? No one. Simply put, the Democratic Party lacks the political language to take on the assault on middle class Americans that is occurring right now. If the opposition party to the detestable GOP wealth transfer, known as the tax bill, is “we should have worked together” then we are all royally fucked. Either the GOP tax bill is CLASS WARFARE or its ok. Unfortunately, I do not believe the Democratic Party's big donors will allow the party leaders to use such language. Which is why the party must start rejecting the money of its wealthy and big corporate donors. There is no centrist middle ground for the Democrats to walk to  protect the middle class.

It is time to abandon incremental technocratic centrist policy positions and take up a bold progressive agenda that will unquestionably improve the lives of middle class Americans. It is time for the rhetoric to match the anger most Americans are feeling at being under constant assault. 

The Democratic Party constituents must be ready to critique and hold their party accountable for their mistakes even in the era of Trump because, we MUST make the Democratic Party the party of the workers and middle class again.


  1. Very good points. I do think the current Democratic weak message also about not scaring Independents away, not just about keeping Wall Street happy. Surveys show fewer people identify with either party. However, a compelling message is vital, definitely inadequate to just say we're not the other guy.

  2. I stood in line for 2 hours to vote for Bernie in my state's primary. But in the general election, I voted Trump. For the Democrat party to succeed, they need to win back voters just like me. But their embrace of identity politics makes it really hard to ever appeal to white middle class voters. Can the Democrats win without them? Maybe in 50 years when the population had changed enough, but I doubt they want to wait that long. I doubt the Democrats make much meaningful progress in winning back those 1,043 races they lost in the past 8 years. But if they made some radical changes, I'd certainly flip my vote. I haven't seen anything yet that would cause me to consider that though.


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