Democrats will eventually decide on a candidate to run against Trump. In the meantime, the field will be testing ideas, rhetoric and tactics against one another to see which ones excite the electorate in their favor. Out of that melee will come something that resembles a campaign game plan that might work.
I want to suggest that for it to work, it must include the following elements.
Focus on national pride. Trump’s Make America Great Again has touched on a nerve. Forget about his base, Americans who twice voted for Obama, then switched to Trump want their sense of patriotism to be honored. Yes we Can and Make America Great Again did that. Of course we have serious problems to address, made more serious by Trump’s bumbling domestic incompetency, and buffoonish blustering on the international stage. The Democratic candidate who celebrates with pride the values and courage that define the American ideal will be welcomed by voters of every stripe.
Emphasize a tough stance on international trade. Proclaim intention to reenter multilateral trade agreements and negotiations, but be forthright about declaring that this time standards for worker rights, environmental protection, intellectual property rights, and commercial code transparency will be of paramount importance. Trump’s tariffs are a crude tool of limited usefulness, but countering with nothing more than negotiation sounds weak. Have three or four, no more, simple, understandable tools to replace tariffs.
Celebrate the economy. Trump and his supporters do, but without a legitimate claim for it. The policies that have enabled our decade long period of economic growth are due partly to the last few months of Bush II, and all of the Obama term. Claim it. But claim it with the added recognition that Trump has run it out onto thin ice through an ill advised tax cut and surging deficits that have no economically justifiable purpose. Make sure everyone remembers his bombastic promises about steel, coal, aluminum, auto production, etc., and display the results. Boldly advocate reversing the Trump tax dodge with no apologies.
P.S. Trump has set the nation up for a recession. Have a plan for it, but keep it in reserve.
Present a simple three or four point immigration plan. Trump will do what he an to generate xenophobic hysteria over southern border immigration, and not without cause. It’s been a troubling issue for decades. Solving it will be difficult. Voters don’t want difficult. They want simple and easy to understand. For campaign purposes, a simple plan might include streamlining asylum and refugee admission processes (keeping families intact); conducting a massive public education campaign in Central America explaining why trekking to the U.S. is a bad idea; removing doubt from dreamers’ hopes for a future in the only country they know.
Promote revitalized public education for all. Make skilled trades and community colleges the center piece of education policies. Challenge universities and liberal arts colleges to control their costs. Make quality pre-K through 12 public school education a high priority, with an emphasis on rural areas and economically challenged cities. Emphasize cooperative state-federal partnerships. Admit charter schools have their place, but give them no more than that.
Commit to investment in infrastructure with a real plan. Begin with the basics: bridges, highways, water and sewer. They are the elements of infrastructure ordinary people use every day. Then go on to things such as broad band, air traffic, mass transit, etc. Do zero based budget planning before suggesting increased use taxes. It may reveal a better distribution of existing resources. Don’t tout shovel ready projects. There aren’t any. Every infrastructure project requires plans and specifications, and they are expensive, time consuming investments.
Have a housing plan. Every city and town has a problem with affordable housing. Encourage mixed use zoning, revitalize tax credit partnerships, expand mortgage programs for affordable condominiums and apartments.
Reform the bureaucracy. One reason the federal government gets a bad name is that agency staff have never been trained in customer service. There’s an enormous difference between enforcing regulations and helping customers to success in their use of federal programs. It will increase effectiveness, reduce inefficiencies, and, voila, customer satisfaction will be a measure of success.
Health care. Well of course health care. But don’t over promise. Begin with the best of the ACA and offer improvements and expansion. Explain in clear simple terms how it will work and be paid for.
Sen. Warren has hundreds of ideas to add, all of them worthy, I’m sure. No doubt she will inspire other candidates to offer even longer lists of goodies. Stick with the basics. Voters can handle only so much, after that it’s just blah, blah, blah.
When you have the right game plan, stick with it. Don’t let Trump sucker you into playing his game, and he’s very good at doing that. Don’t fall for it. Let his insults fall like rain. Ignore them. Ignore tea party taunts. Just as important, ignore far left taunts and pressures.