As a former party official, field organizer and campaign manager, I’ve got one message for my fellow Democrats: Snap out of it!
Democrats right now need a lot more than a pep talk or a wake-up call. We need a cold slap and a loud voice in our face, reminding us to pull it together.
The 2020 election isn’t just part of some decades-long “Game of Thrones” back and forth between two competing parties. In their panic to stem the demographic tide that threatens to overwhelm their ability to compete in fair and free elections, Republicans have embraced an ethos and a leader that flagrantly flaunt the very idea of fair and free elections.
This election is different: The rule of law is on the line. Democracy is at stake.
The Founders put several tools in place to guard against a descent into despotism. The Electoral College was designed to prevent a clever and shameless charlatan from tricking enough of the electorate to win the presidency. Well, in 2016 the Electoral College only exacerbated the problem.
Only voters can end ‘Trumpism’
The three coequal branch system of checks and balances was meant to prevent any potential tyrant from gaining an upper hand. But instead of enforcing the prerogatives of the legislative branch, this Senate handed a corrupted executive branch free rein. Meanwhile, the federal courts are being stocked with more enablers.
That leaves one remaining bulwark against a slide into lawless authoritarianism — American voters. We’re now the jurors! Yes, I strongly believe that the Democratic Party is the only viable opposition to “Trumpism.” I’m not talking about just winning an election. I’m talking about saving our democracy.
So snap out of it, Democrats! I know the Iowa caucus fiasco rattled us, and we became dazed, so let me spell out a few things you need to start doing right now.
First of all, execute the basics! Acrobatic catches make the highlight reel, but games are won with trap blocks and long snaps executed with precision. The fiasco in Iowa last week was inexcusable. As Peggy Noonan said of the Democrats in a well-deserved burn: “The lack of professionalism, the incompetence is the kind of thing that not only shocks a party but shadows it.”
Starting now, every caucus state must be on notice to double-check its election apparatus long before voters show up.
Next, get relevant! American voters have never made a secret about what’s important to them: jobs, income equity, economic stability and health care, health care, health care. And wonder of wonders, Trump doesn’t have plans for any of those things beyond chest-thumping trade wars that only endanger the whole house of cards.
As far as health care is concerned,Trump’s grand plan is literally to wreck the health care system and leave millions without coverage, with no idea whatsoever about what to put in its place. And that has been his plan for years! If you can’t ride that to victory, you don’t deserve to win.
Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. When they hear from a candidate, they want to hear about solutions that will help them now, not in some future Shangri-La of perfect happiness. The weird thing is that Democrats have real answers, but they won’t listen to the questions voters are asking.
Count on Trump to cheat to win
Another thing: It’s Donald Trump, stupid! Or should I say, it’s a referendum on his leadership, policies, tweets, corruption and obstruction. Either way, the president’s nastiness, pettiness, anger and sad ignorance are all repulsive to the vast swath of voters in the middle who will tip this election. Keep the focus on the issues, but never shy away from acknowledging that a vindictive man is running this country. It’s such a pervasive stink, people sometimes stop smelling it.
One more thing to remember about running against Trump: He can and will cheat to the point of committing crimes, as he has done so many times. And now the GOP-controlled Senate has given him carte blanche to do whatever he wants.
Even as the Democrats were self-immolating in Iowa last week, Trump’s minions were pouring gasoline on the fires by intentionally clogging the phone lines set up to report the caucus results. Expect much worse down the road. Democrats must be prepared for disruption again and beat it down.
Yes, Democrats had a rough week. Guess what? During the Super Bowl, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had a rough three consecutive quarters of football. It didn’t stop him. He never let worries about “momentum” stop his own efforts to take control. He never doubted himself or his teammates. He didn’t dwell on his mistakes, he corrected them. And when opportunities arose, he took advantage of them and won the game.
Democrats, we have the opportunities. We have the talent. For proof of this, just look at the electoral gains the Democrats have made since Trump took office. What we need now is a focus on the basics and a winning attitude. So snap out of it!
Donna Brazile, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is a Fox News contributor, an at-large automatic delegate to the 2020 Democratic convention, former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee and author of “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.” Follow her on Twitter: @donnabrazile