And so here we are–election day

7 Nov

Going into today’s election, I’m feeling pretty confident that the Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives. At the very least, Dems should also raise their numbers in the Senate.

But what’s frustrating is that it’s even this close. After six years of one-party rule, with our troops bogged down in a place called Baghdad where people die daily due to bombings and terrorist activities, with Jack Abramoff’s influence-peddling, with the deficit and national debt hitting record numbers, with the Constitution being rewritten without our consent, with the “moral crusaders” being revealed as (at best) humans with human weaknesses or (at worst) hypocrites, with a political party that declares global climate change is a “hoax,” one would think the Democrats would win in a landslide.

But they won’t. And there’s a few reasons why.

First, it takes time to shift the point of view of the electorate. The people who vote don’t immediately see the Republicans as corrupt, inept, or downright bad for the country. (Not all Rs are that way, but a lot of the ones holding office now in D.C. are.) It’s like finding out that your favorite uncle has a less-than-savory past. For a while, you don’t want to believe it about him. It will take time for the rank and file Republican voters to see that they’ve been used.

The second reason is more immediate, however. The Democrats chose not to make national themes an important part of this year’s campaign. There was no unifying message that would make people want to vote for Democrats for being Democrats. Instead, the message was “we need to change.” People can agree that we need change, but unless Dems can tell voters what change will come if the Dems take office, there’s not much motivation there.

I’ve written about the book Wait! Don’t Move to Canada before.  Its author makes a compelling case for what message the Democrats need to get out to the voters, and that they need to keep repeating:

  • representative, responsive, responsible government;
  • fair and adequate taxation;
  • promoting credible democracy and eradicating poverty abroad to defeat the terrorist threat

Simple messages–we represent the people, not corporate profiteers; we want the government to be responsive to the needs of the people (remember Katrina?); we want the government to be responsible with its use of taxpayer dollars (no more no-bid contracts to Halliburton so they can charge our troops (and us) $45 for a six-pack of Coca-Cola).

Taxes–no one likes to pay them, but if we don’t, then how will we pay our men and women in uniform for their service? How will we pay for the Centers for Disease Control that helps prevent epidemics that could wipe out large numbers of people. How will we pay for our interstate highway system that provides the arteries for the movement of goods and people?

Terrorism–this is not easy, because it would involve shifting the mindset of people who have heard only that the U.S. is an immoral and arrogant nation. We say we promote democracy, yet we prop up regimes like Saudi Arabia where enemies of the government are tortured and killed. Meanwhile, violent groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are setting up health clinics and services to help the poor–capturing their hearts and minds and reinforcing the anti-U.S. message and image.

We need to repeat these messages so they almost become a mantra. They are good messages that people will like. But if we don’t keep repeating them, they won’t be heard.

Here’s your homework assignment: After you vote, write a letter to the editor(s) of your local paper(s). Tell them why you voted for Democrats, and work those themes above into your letter. Then have a friend do the same, and another friend, and so on.

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