Good riddance to 2017, without a doubt the worst year ever.
So sayeth Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Rachel Maddow and Jake Tapper and the New York Times and the other Democratic Party faithful, whose every waking moment has been consumed with the visage of an orange-tufted megalomaniac who has made their lives a living hell for the past year.
The nation’s 45th President, they lament, is a coarse and vulgar and vile man. And, of course, they have a point.
But unless the Democrats change their PR tune, they’re destined to continue wallowing in their own misery, as Republicans maintain their Congressional hold in 2018 and even — heaven forefend — regain the Presidency in 2020.
The fact is, almost half the population — 63 million Americans — voted Donald Trump President — and in the year since, the Democrats haven’t provided one valid reason for those people to change their vote next time around. If anything, they’ve given them even more reason to keep voting Republican.
So, as we head into the New Year, what can Nancy and Chuckie and Lizzy and all the rest of the disheartened Democrats do to regain their winning ways? Here’s a PR formula they might think about.
Find new faces
The Democrats, shining beacon for Millennials and dreamers and socially-conscious young people, are burdened by old and tired leaders.
Senate Minority Leader Schumer, who’s been around since forever and has been on television longer than that, has become a broken record, defined principally by self-promotional Sunday press conferences and senseless sound bytes.
Likewise, House Minority Leader Pelosi, a multi-millionaire many times over married to a prominent venture capitalist, continues to rankle her own members as she rails, toothlessly, about protecting the poor and disenfranchised.
Further, the party’s two most celebrated saviors, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are unabashed socialists, who would capsize capitalism the minute they were granted power. Neither can be elected President.
As to “fresh faces,” Kirsten Gillibrand is a climber, who’d desperately love to be included in the mix. But the New York senator was a serial recipient of Donald Trump contributions and was labeled a “lightweight” by a man who should know. Gillibrand’s New Jersey colleague Cory Booker is another chomping at the Presidential bit, but he, too, fits the “lightweight” description, accomplishing little as mayor of Newark.
Meanwhile the Republicans have been fortifying the younger side of the party, with leaders like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio and Kevin McCarthy ready to replace old-timers like Trump and Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell.
So, the first thing Democrats need to do is to find younger, able-bodied working men and women to lead their party.
When Barack Obama was President, Democrats regularly accused Republicans of being the party of “no.” And they were right. But today, with the despised Trump in the saddle, Democrats have fallen into the same trap.
Consider Trump’s tax bill, which not one Democrat in Washington had the nerve to vote for. How could they vote for it when their leaders were so apocalyptic in their pronouncements of the havoc the tax bill would surely cause?
Pelosi labeled it a “Frankenstein,” which “raises taxes on 86 million middle class households.” Schumer agreed that “when middle-class families see their taxes go up, they’ll know Republicans are to blame.”
But when, exactly, will these families see their taxes go up?
The most likely answer is about eight, nine or 10 years from now, when the individual tax cut part of the bill lapses. That means — and you don’t have to have a Wharton economics degree to figure this out — if you’re an American who receives a pay check each month, you’ll receive more money and pay less taxes for the next decade or so.
So, in 10 years, if Congress doesn’t pass new legislation (which, of course, it will!), then and only then will you see your “taxes go up.”
Now Democrats correctly argue that homeowners and tax payers in states like New York and New Jersey will lose write-offs, but the point remains that all the Democrats whining about the tax bill’s harsh impact on wage earners will likely fall apart once people begin seeing more take home pay in their monthly pay checks.
In other words, all the whining and nay saying that’s become the only thing Democrats seem to do these days will most likely come back to bite them in the buttocks.
A better plan would be to, well …
Get a plan
In other words, stand for something.
Right now, nobody quite knows what Democrats support. All we know is that they’re all anti-Trump.
Are they also all-in liberal crusaders, a la Sanders/Warren, ready to cut off Wall Street and big business as soon as they seize power? Or are they more moderately-inclined, like the new Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones, who’d like to see the nation’s business keep percolating but with much more done in behalf of the climate and people who have less?
For example, if Democrats were honest, they’d support elements of Trump’s tax bill that clearly help the middle class, but they’d object, instead, to unfair elements, like the hedge fund “carried interest” loophole that Trump promised he would end but wasn’t touched in the tax bill.
The key is to drop the “blanket negativity” to everything Trump, accept the measures that make sense, but adopt a clear plan — about climate, dreamers, the poor, the middle class, etc. — that can be easily understood and clearly articulated.
And here’s what this new Democratic plan ought to begin with …
The American economic system is based on every individual’s right to make a living and support his or her family.
But the Democrats seem to disagree with this fundamental American precept. To them, business is “the enemy.”
At the same time, Democrats speak about supporting “jobs”; they talk about stopping Wall Street, shackling the banks and crippling “big business.” But how can you have more “jobs” if you’re doing whatever you can to limit the purveyors of employment?
The fact is, you can’t.
And if Democrats really want to regain power, not to mention the White House, they better recognize that you can’t win in America being “anti-business.”
If he doesn’t understand much else, Donald Trump at least recognizes that promoting American business is the only way to go. If Democrats don’t get that message, after all their nightmares of the past year, well then they better stock up on Zantac.
Fraser P. Seitel has been a communications consultant, author and teacher for 40 years. He may be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the author of the Prentice-Hall text The Practice of Public Relations, now in its eleventh edition, and co-author of Rethinking Reputation and Idea Wise.