Monthly Archives: July 2017

Democrats….We Try Harder (we have to)

Have you noticed how Republicans rarely, if ever, ask “What went wrong?” Even when things go wrong, they say “Stick to the plan, find the real Republicans and keep moving ahead.”

23 years ago Newt Gingrich laid the foundation for winning with the “Contract with America.” There were 8 government and operational reforms listed that no one actually remembers, but the message was that government would be reduced and austerity would cut wasteful spending.

There was no resolute policy, but that didn’t matter. It said to Americans: “We understand that government works for YOU, and this is our pledge to fight for YOUR values.” It was dovetailed to the Reagan dictum: Government isn’t the solution, government is the problem.

It resonated by saying (and repeating over and over) that government is too big, too invasive, is taking your liberties and your money, and not enhancing your values. Values are never defined either, but patriotism was enveloped by Christianity, imperialist doctrine, a destiny of unbridled wealth, and it was cloaked in a spirit that embraced Americans’ cherished belief that we are the Shining City on the Hill.

It inspired, and inspiration doesn’t need definition or even justification; it only needs to run through our veins.

When Democrats lose, we get together to figure out what went wrong, and then issue a proclamation to say that “We’re going to learn how to listen so that we can serve you better.” That might even be the most genuinely intelligent way to get better and to do better things, but it doesn’t inspire, and that’s where we fail.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look critically at ourselves, and build new alliances, use polling and collect data (and everything liberals tend to do by nature) but we cannot keep missing the bigger picture- What do we offer to voters that says “We are holding America together with the values that can make your dreams possible”?

That is not specific and detailed policy and it isn’t the result of polling to tell us what Americans want the most. We cannot avoid policy, as that is what makes us Democrats, but policies are the apples on the tree, not the root system that makes them come to fruition.

Easier said than done to grow stronger roots, but we can take a page out of the history of rental cars. No, seriously.

Avis could not overcome the size of Hertz and they developed one of the most enduring tag lines in history. Avis lost millions every year until they came up with “We’re Number Two; We Try Harder.” The industry said “That will fail! You can’t advertise that you’re not number one!!” But it spoke to the public and they started making money. It inspired people to believe that Avis was truthful and was, in fact, going to try harder.

That’s what people want. Not necessarily the policy-equation that shows them the math and science behind why one idea is better than another or where they have been failing, but the feeling that they can believe in something, or someone, who will try harder, so that their own hard work will pay off.

The take away here should not be that Democrats have to admit defeat or be self-deprecating; the take away is that we have to show what motivates us so that we can motivate voters.

We are motivated by making America stronger, more productive, safer, and more successful across the board so that everyone feels that they have a chance again.

Here’s my volley into the slogan arena: The Democratic Party: Building a stronger, healthier America.

Then, how do we turn that into a “contract”? That is what we should be exploring. We are Democrats in the 21st century; the progeny of the Age of Enlightenment to challenge the status quo and break the molds that confine us to our lesser selves. Our order is to expand society to a greater consciousness. Good stuff. But it doesn’t serve us well on a bumper sticker.

Republican/Conservatives have so engrained patriotism into their brand that to tell a Republican that they are voting against their own interests is like trying to convince a devout Christian that Christ wasn’t the Messiah. Or to a devout Muslim that he was. It is simply their identification to their core belief. As Democrats we have a long history of believing that we can use logic and facts to make our case; to show that person at the door that we are the better fit to match their goals and that they have, in fact, been voting against their interests. It isn’t convincing.

So, is there room for us at the door if “God and Country” have already been taken?


No party has ever actually cornered the American Dream. All we have is an abstract, amorphous thought that contains feelings of security, experiencing happiness and freedom. Maybe it buys a house, puts the kids through college, takes a vacation every year; who knows what the American Dream really looks like?

Telling Americans that they are not serving their own interests is not how we can communicate our values. It will be found when our message marries better health with their dream; higher wages with that dream; safer communities with that dream; expanding opportunities for our kids and grandkids with that dream.

We must marry our policies to America’s preeminent values; the American dream of personal prosperity. The landscape of productive lives for our elderly, the infirmed, our children, businesses, our military men and women, working families, and those who have fallen into, or were born into poverty. And the continued prosperity of the wealthy and fortunate, as well.

Every one of us falls, at one time or another, into one of those categories. The dream respects the health of every American. That is a message for the real America.

Once again….The Democratic Party – Building a Stronger, Healthier America.

It ain’t the heat, it’s the Hume-idity

I just can’t get this series of statements from Brit Hume out of my head:

Hume’s comment: “Obamacare was designed to help the poorest and sickest citizens out there. However, as noble as that sounds, the consequence of such logic is the fact that it neglects the core ethic values that were embedded in our constitution.”

He goes on to define that core value as the responsibility of every American to take care of themselves without burdening others. He says: “If you’re at a point where you’re both poor and you get sick, it’s your own fault.”

As I try to wrap my mind around that arrogant and ignorant analysis, there is something being said here that illuminates a question dividing the left and the right in America: What are our American values?

The Hume/Trump/half of America-side defines our preeminent value as hard work, not burdening others, and thereby reaping the reward of the American Dream; which is ostensibly unlimited success.

The rest of us live in reality. The enduring myth that hard work and rugged individualism will result in prosperity is part of our national fabric, and does, in fact, inspire us, but it is only a chapter in our story. A chapter that is supported by rags to riches evidence, but that evidence is from a narrative written exclusively by those who won. It ignores a larger reality. The reality that contains stories of misfortune with myriad consequences that betray Hume’s “responsibility of every American to take care of themselves.”

No one asks for mental illness, a lost parent from a car accident, cancer, disabilities, or even whooping cough. No one asks to be part of corporate downsizing or to have stagnant wages. No one asked to be born into poverty or for poverty to befall them and the hurdles and challenges of environment, hunger, and limited access to education and healthcare that result.

The reality of oppression from a King, and from amongst ourselves, is what actually created the Constitution and it is embedded in our true American value; to sustain a country of, for and by the people. That is a plural concept, not a singular proposition. The “general welfare” in the Preamble was born from the understood value of the “common good.” Our government was created to support that society, from which individualism and hard work have a clearer path to success, but one cannot divorce themselves from the foundation of the community, large and small, in order to fulfill that dream.

“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” are America’s core values as eloquently expressed in our Declaration of Independence. Not margins, profit and diversified portfolios. To many Americans, today, affluence is the most important measure of success, but the spirit of rebellion that caused colonists to defy a King at the risk of treason, was born from a bigger dream than material wealth; it was the inalienable right to freedom predicated on equal justice.

Or is that just another “spiritual” pleasantry to Mr. Hume and not a real American value?

The End Of The World As We Know It!

zombie-apocalypse-from-overclockersYou know those apocalyptic movies where the world is near extinction because we are being overrun by Zombies?  They became Zombi-fied from a virus that is circumnavigating the world at an exponential rate.

The movie will go back in time, briefly, to show us the unnoticed, seemingly insignificant, event that first sent monkeybrainthe virus airborne into a lethal chain reaction.  It’s usually something as benign as a pet chimp sneezing into their new owner’s cereal bowl.  The intent is to suggest that it’s something so unforeseeable that it could be happening as we sit in this very theater.

What if we are at the beginning of one of those sequences of events right now?  Could we implode from a cacophony of conflicting nuances, divergent political agendas, contradictory rules, extended punishments, threats, insults, and misunderstandings?

I’m not an alarmist, by nature, but my interest in politics compels me to look for patterns in current events.  As a writer, I translate those observations into common analogies to grasp what is going on.  Make sense?  No?

Well…. in America, our solutions to problems, historically, are comparable to an antiquated idea Punished Boy --- Image by © Roy Morsch/CORBISof child rearing.  If there is a behavior that alarms us, punish the culprit and the problem will go away because no one likes to be punished.

So we castigate, eliminate, or incarcerate everything and everyone that had anything to do with anything or anyone who might have said, done, or listened to anything or anyone that might have misconstrued, misjudged, misappropriated or misbehaved.

What happens in reality, however, is the behavior is simply displaced and moves somewhere else or is transposed into a different, but equally poor, behavior.

We have come to a very precarious place where many people think that banishment, chastisement, punishment, censorship and walls can replace education, understanding, compassion, diplomacy and bridges; silence the protest and we eliminate the problem.  Censor the protester, politician, pundit, satirist, musician, writer, parent, teacher, or student…and the conflict is corrected.

In reality, however, we create a more frightened and more fragile society.  And I’m concerned.  We cannot silence of voices who hold our leaders accountable because they are the narrators of our story.  They are the ones who can illuminate that sequence of events before it’s too late.

Can you excuse me for a moment?  My chimpanzee has a cold.