Democrats Offer the Right Message, but Have the Wrong Messenger
Last night, Rep. Nancy Pelosi held a nationally-televised “Town Hall Meeting.”
Overnight television ratings were’t available at the time of this writing. However, one presumes the hour-long Q & A session with the House Minority Leader taking center stage probably drew a few million voters. It’s also a valid guess that just about everyone tuning in to watch Pelosi were Democratic loyalists, and/or voters repelled by President Trump. It’s highly doubtful that many independents or Republicans watched the telecast. I’d even go so far as to say the number of opinions swayed by Pelosi’s remarks during the town hall meeting could probably fit into a telephone booth, assuming there were still any phone booths around, which precisely makes my point.
This begs the question all Democrats should be asking, namely — what in the hell was Nancy Pelosi doing on that stage?
Incredibly, the Democrats never seem to learn the lessons of history, even when it’s a hard reality to face and a bitter pill to swallow. Despite Republicans offering a dreadfully-flawed candidate at the top of their party ticket stained by the highest negatives in American political history, Democrats still got whipped in the election — at every level. Republicans won the presidency, the House, the Senate, plus an overwhelming number of gubernatorial slots and state legislatures. Democrats, who spent just as much money nationally as the Republicans (arguably more, depending on metrics), were humiliated.
Democrat defeats weren’t due to spouting the wrong message. Not at all. On virtually every issue, Democrats enjoy the majority support. Do Americans favor raising the minimum wage? Check. Do Americans favor responsible gun legislation? Check. Do Americans believe in climate change? Check. Do Americans want to improve our national infrastructure? Check. Do Americans want to protect a woman’s right to chose? Check. On nearly every issue, the Democrat message wins the hearts and minds of most people. Accordingly, since the message wins the popularity contest (and by an overwhelming majority on some issues), the explanation for disproportionate losses must lie elsewhere (yes, gerrymandering has a lot to do with it).
Here’s a novel thought: Perhaps it’s the messenger.
Given the mass rebuke of Democratic candidates across the board, in all regions of the country, one might have expected plenty of heads to roll after the disaster. Certainly, it seemed reasonable to expect Democratic Party leadership to gracefully step aside and allow a younger, more energetic crowd with new ideas — not only about how to govern but how to campaign — to step forward and carry the progressive torch. But instead, Democrats gave virtually all its leaders a contract extension.
Using a sporting comparison, there’s a reason why the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars fired the entire coaching staff after the team finished 3-11 last season. Even though they’re all probably good and decent people, each talented and knowledgeable in his own right, the ax fell because coaches failed to accomplish their objectives. Not only did they fail to win, they also lost badly. Yet, Democrats continue to slumber blindly onward with the same impotent leadership, oblivious to how much of the country sees them.
One of the very first acts by Democrats who assembled in the new congress in early 2017 was to re-elect Nancy Pelosi to what amounts to the de facto face of the party, along with Chuck Schumer, her counterpart in the U.S. Senate. One might argue there’s justification for choosing Pelosi (and Schumer) and allowing them to continue in their leadership posts. After all, congressional staffs are immensely critical in the legislative process and it would be hard to argue there are better staffs than Pelosi’s and Schumer’s. There’s also long traditions in congress, which reward seniority. Political insurrections might happen in some elections, but they aren’t common on Capital Hill.
Yet, television and town halls require a completely different skill set than the wonkish acts of governance. If President Trump’s election victory teaches us anything — it’s that we’ve now rocketed into a completely new age of political marketing and showmanship. Voters aren’t interested much in policy details and studies, nor even facts. I know, that’s a frightening conclusion. But no once can refute it. Facts don’t matter. Instead, they want a circus. So, Democrats need to give it to them — wild tigers, elephants, trapeze artists, and even clowns. That’s how to create the Big Tent and win election victories.
Fortunately, Democrats have a number of outstanding ringmasters ready and eager to spread the progressive message. Instead of Nancy Pelosi, Democrats would have been advised to offer the town hall spot to Sen. Al Franken, or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, or Sen. Amy Klobuchar, or even Sen. Cory Booker (despite his inexplicable vote against allowing pharmaceuticals into the United States from Canada, which angered many on the Left). Want to pick a better national spokesperson for the party then Pelosi? Here’s how to do that: Pick up the congressional phone book, open it up to any page, and point to any name. It’s that bad. It’s that dire.
To be fair, Pelosi is right on most issues that matter. She was way ahead of the rest of the country on civil rights. She’s also done admirable work in the past and can continue to be a political force. Yet, when picking a champion for change, it’s baffling why someone was selected who has such high negatives. Pelosi is the anti-populist. You know it’s “game over,” when Sen. Mitch McConnell is out-polling the Democratic Minority Leader in national polls. Why even bother holding a town hall if it’s going to be fronted by someone considered by a majority of voters to be a pariah? It’s self-defeating.
Still, the Democrats not only refuse to clean house. They won’t even look at themselves in the mirror. Even with what would seem to be overwhelming advantages coming up in the next election (2018) given the chaos we’ve witnessed in recent weeks, Democrats could very well blow it again unless some key lessons are learned from recent history.
Nancy Pelosi’s mystifying showing at a town hall meeting might not seem like a very big deal in the grander scheme of bigger issues. Yet the truth is, it’s yet another painful indication that Democrats remain completely oblivious to how they’re perceived and what’s going on across America.