Whenever Jon Stewart needed to reach out to a particular group or person, he would always say the following: “Meet me over at camera three.” That was his way of getting something important off his chest. Well, like the former Daily Show host, I think it’s high time for me to have a heart to heart with the party looking to win back the White House and Senate in 2020, so, Democrats, meet me over at camera three.
Look, I get it. Last November was truly epic. You picked up 40 House seats and retook the majority. You also netted seven governorships, including Kansas. That was truly impressive, especially since Kansas wasn’t even on the radar before the midterms. And you didn’t stop there. You picked up two important Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona, the latter belonging to former Republican senator and Trump irritant Jeff Flake. I’m sure that didn’t go unnoticed over at the RNC, even if it flew right over the head of Captain Bone Spurs.
But the night wasn’t without its disappointments. Losses in North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and Florida kept the Senate in Republican hands, giving Mitch McConnell two more years to appoint as many of Trump’s judges to the bench as he can. And Florida, once thought to be a future blue state, is now completely red, and may well remain so for the foreseeable future. Progressive candidates like Stacey Abrams, Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum all lost their respective races against Republican opponents that were very beatable. The O’Rourke loss was particularly painful, given that it was against Ted Cruz, one of the least liked men in the Senate.
Indeed, contrary to what so many of you keep insisting, most of the gains by Democrats were by moderate candidates who were far more appealing to the general electorate. Face it, the progressive winds may have been at your back, but it was good old-fashioned centrism that carried you across the finish line election night.
And that’s why you need to hear what I’m about to say because you’re on the verge of throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s time to reign in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives like her while you can before they end up defining the whole Democratic Party. I’m not joking. It’s not even two months since the new Congress was sworn in and already they are the talk of the town, and not in a good way, mind you.
I know some of you have been calling for a Democratic Tea Party uprising, much like the one that gave Republicans control of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. If it worked for them, why not us, you ask? Except, if you take a closer look, it really didn’t work for them. What it did was isolated the GOP politically from the rest of the country. Were it not for gerrymandering, Dems would’ve won back the House in 2016. Oh, and by the way, before I forget, Barack Obama won reelection rather easily in 2012. The Tea Party may have started off as a populist movement, but in retrospect it severely hindered the ability of Republicans to effectively govern. Despite winning the White House in 2016, the GOP is at its lowest approval rating since the days of FDR. Is that the movement you really want to emulate? One that alienates the majority of the electorate?
Initiatives like the “Green New Deal” have garnered a lot of attention lately, most of it negative. Calling it ambitious would be like calling the Atlantic ocean wet. It’s two principle goals are the elimination of all carbon emissions within ten years and full employment for every able-bodied person in the country. Next to this, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was akin to Reaganomics.
Already, Republicans are pouncing on this “deal.” McConnell is planning on calling for a vote in the Senate, no doubt to put Democrats on the record. Are you in favor of winning in 2020 or getting your ass handed to you? Let’s put aside for the moment that attaining zero emissions in ten years is unfeasible, even under conditions that would ostensibly destroy the U.S. economy; the political minefield of such a proposal would not only guarantee Trump a second term, it would give back control of the House to Republicans, perhaps forever.
This was not what the country signed up for when they voted last November. What they wanted, and more importantly, what Democrats ran on, was making sure Republicans didn’t take away their healthcare coverage and government oversight of the Trump Administration. Pie-in-the-sky initiatives were not part of the discussion and will not be well received, I can assure you.
Nor will unforced errors, like the Amazon fiasco. Look, I’m not defending a corporation that makes more money in an hour than I’ll make in my entire lifetime. Jeff Bezos is hardly Mahatma Gandhi. Just ask the city of Seattle what they think of Amazon, and the response you’ll likely get will not be positive. Companies like Amazon, once they move into a major metropolitan area, end up taking it over. By threatening to pull its headquarters out of the city, Amazon effectively killed the so-called “Head Tax” that Seattle was going to impose on corporations making in excess of $20 million a year to pay for more affordable housing. Now that’s power; the same power I have no doubt Amazon would’ve tried to wield over New York once its new headquarters was built in Queens.
But it’s clear that Ocasio-Cortez and her allies had no idea what they were talking about when they came out against the deal. Sure, giving away $3 billion in tax incentives to a multi-billion dollar corporation on the surface seems like extortion, but that $3 billion, contrary to what she and her supporters said, was not just lying around in some petty cash drawer. It was money that was to be reimbursed back to Amazon from taxes collected once the facility was opened. And while the $27 billion figure that was floated as the amount the state was supposed to get in the deal seems a bit of a stretch, there’s no denying that it would’ve generated badly needed money to pay for overhauls to New York City’s transit system and roads. That money will now have to come from other sources; i.e. tax increases. If, like me, you live on Long Island, you’re not happy with what happened and why.
Then there’s Elizabeth Warren’s “wealth tax,” another proposal that will be dead on arrival should she actually win the White House. The fact is there’s no way Warren will ever get 51 votes in the Senate for her plan, much less the 60 required to overcome a filibuster. And the same can be said of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all dream. He can talk all he wants about Europe, the fact is this isn’t Europe. Virtually none of the proposals being floated by progressive candidates running president are popular with voters. To quote David Frum: “There is no progressive majority in America.” To be fair, I would also point out that there is no conservative majority either. The truth is somewhere in between.
Rule number one in politics is do no harm. It’s a rule Trump keeps breaking, which is why he is polling in the low 40s. Democrats, you cannot win by copying that failed formula. It’s one thing to be energetic; it’s quite another to be reckless. For most of the last two years, the headlines were mainly about this president and his rogue administration. Of late, the headlines are starting to shift away from Trump towards the split between progressives and centrists. This is a giant gift to the GOP that is unconscionable.
Look, Dems, there’s still time to avoid a catastrophe, but it will require something you historically have had a hard time mustering: courage. To beat Trump, you have to keep it simple. Resist the temptation, no matter how good it feels, of going for the gusto. There is no to shoot for the when simply attaining orbit will do.
The Democratic platform should contain the following: fixing the Affordable Care Act so that more people have access to affordable health insurance; restoring the middle-class tax deductions that the GOP tax scheme took away; rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and perhaps passing a carbon tax that would result in lower greenhouse gases; and partnering with the private sector to rebuild our infrastructure. No freebies, no wild-eyed schemes that Republicans can weaponize against you in 2020.
Trump will continue to do what he has been doing since he took office: implode. The man is his own worst enemy. Did you watch his press conference in the Rose Garden the other day? Incoherent would be a word in a half. It is political malpractice of the highest order to engage in any conduct or behavior that gets him off the hook by distracting voters away from what he’s doing to this country. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t understand that fact, it is incumbent upon those of you who do to either reel her in or cut the legs out from under her.
Progressives will have a fit. Let them. After all was said and done, the chief reason for Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 was her failure to connect with voters in the suburbs. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will have one helluva time getting them back. They shouldn’t be forced to go to the plate with two strikes against them already.
Sorry, I wasn’t funny like Jon Stewart would’ve been, but the fact is this stopped being funny a long time ago. With eighteen and a half months to go till D day, it’s time to stop fucking around and get down to business, people.