The Democratic Party needs some victories


Courtesy of Ad Meskens

South facade of the White House, Washington DC. The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States.

Steffen Schmidt, Lucken Prof. of Political Science Emeritus, ISU

I was chatting with some Democratic acquaintances recently and got mostly excuses why the party has been losing so many elections. 

They say things like, “Well, gerrymandering makes it impossible for Democrats to win.” Or “We’re outspent by rich donors.” Or “Young people are not interested in politics.” And “I’m very busy.”  

All true.

But instead of excuses, Democrats need to find innovative ways to overcome these disadvantages in Florida, Iowa and wherever the party has been crushed in the last elections. A two-party system like the United States needs, well, two successful parties offering different solutions to the serious challenges we face. 

My Democratic friends get very busy with all their other volunteer work (garden club, SPCA, signing petitions, protesting things, the Art society, etc), jobs, church, family and travel. These are all very worthy. As a result, Democratic Party work is just a small piece of their very active lives. 

Democrats need to implement the Four Imperatives for Victory. What are these four?

  1. Hire lots of full-time professionals! Working on, organizing and building a bench of great candidates and creating really exciting, creative, appealing voter recruitment and registration. Part-time volunteers will never compete with the Republicans. 
  2. Remind themselves that winning elections is THE most important goal of politics. To that end, they need to limit the party agenda and messaging to topics that appeal to enough voters so Democrats can win elections. Don’t write off voters that you think you don’t need such as rural and small-town folks, which is where Democrats are doing poorly (according to a recent poll, 65% of rural voters view the Democratic Party negatively.)*
  3. Dems need to get over their insistence that they have to get money out of politics. That’s almost impossible to do. So, Democrats need to raise more money than Republicans. In politics as in war, you can’t just fight one battle and then go home. You need to finance that long journey to victory.  
  4. Democrats need to stop saying, “Oh, but this person is such a good individual and candidate,” when that person has actually lost races in which they have been a candidate. Candidates that win are tailored to the constituency that’s voting. A winning candidate in Iowa might not be in Georgia. A winning candidate in a rural district in Iowa may not do well in Cedar Rapids. 

Unless Democrats incorporate these four imperatives, they risk losing more Iowas and Floridas and may become a permanent minority party.