“…The same choice faces the nation today. All that today’s Republicans are saying is that if we just shrink government, cut taxes, crush unions and wait, all will be well. Never mind that those are the very policies that got us into recession to begin with! Never mind that not one of the governors who preached that gospel in Tampa last week has the results to show for it. But we Democrats owe America more than a strong argument for what we are against. We need to be just as strong about what we are for.
The question is: What do we believe? We believe in an economy that grows opportunity out to the middle class and the marginalized, not just up to the well connected. We believe that freedom means keeping government out of our most private affairs, including out of a woman’s decision whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy and everybody’s decision about whom to marry. We believe that we owe the next generation a better country than we found and that every American has a stake in that. We believe that in times like these we should turn to each other, not on each other. We believe that government has a role to play, not in solving every problem in everybody’s life but in helping people help themselves to the American dream. That’s what Democrats believe.
If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it’s time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe. Quit waiting for pundits or polls or super PACs to tell us who the next president or senator or congressman is going to be. We’re Americans.” [Deval Patrick 2012]
The speech was given in 2012… and a mere two years later Democrats continued to fumble the message. Here are some clues we might have taken.
#1. Never run as a Republican-Lite. Why bother? If the district or state is conservative then those who are inclined to vote Republican will do so; why should they vote for an ersatz Republican when they can vote for the “real thing?”
#2. Run to success. I repeat myself:
“Democrats have a party the leadership of which: Produced 63 consecutive months of economic growth; we have 54 straight months of increased private sector employment; the unemployment rate has dropped from 10.1% in October 2009 to 5.9%; the federal deficit has been reduced by 66% since October 2009; the rate of federal spending increases is the lowest (1.4%) since the Eisenhower administration; 95% of Americans pay lower taxes than at any time in the last fifty years; 7 million Americans have health insurance they could not have afforded before the ACA; and the rate of health care spending increases has been less (1.3%) than any year since 1965. [pdf]”
#3. Define yourself before the opponent defines you. Grab your issues firmly – increasing the minimum wage, reforming the administration of student loans, comprehensive immigration reform, increasing funding for veterans’ care and services, increased funding for infrastructure maintenance and improvement – whatever fills your sails. Do as much as you can to force your opponent to debate on your terms and about your agenda.
#4. Remind your audiences that your opponent is easily distracted by shiny objects. You want to run on a platform of (a stronger middle class, more opportunities for middle class families, higher employment, or whatever), while your opponent wants to sell fear, dismay, or downright panic over things that in the long run really aren’t very important, are downright fabrications, or are antithetical to the advancement of middle class Americans.
#5. Go back and read Governor Patrick’s full speech again.