Lessons for Democrats in 2024
By Ralph Nader
November 18, 2022
Once again, the Congressional Democratic Party leaders are claiming a victory of sorts in an election where the Dems should have landslided the most corrupt, cruel and lying Republican Party in history. The Dems lost the House of Representatives and once again narrowly won the Senate, flipping only the Pennsylvania seat (even though the Dems had 14 seats up for re-election compared to 20 seats up for the Republicans).
In the 2024 Senate race, the odds will not favor the Dems. There will be 23 Democratic Senators up for re-election (including two independents who vote with the Democrats), compared to only 10 Republican Senators. All the Republican seats are in red states.
Given these numbers, the Democrats face a certain loss of the Senate in 2024, unless they look at themselves in the mirror and start, as Lincoln said, “thinking anew.” The lessons from the near-total loss of Congress this year are manifest and visible. Here are a few suggestions for the Dems in 2024:
1. Start investing now in a ground game. Commit to rejecting wasteful mega television ad buys. Convey Democratic policies and records that connect with people where they live, work and raise their families. We all bleed the same color. Abstract ideologies and fabricated GOP distractions matter less when candidates focus on people’s livelihoods and specific justice.
Since the Republicans can’t shake their corporate paymasters’ greed, even to support basic social safety net protections, long established in other western countries, the Democrats will have this field to themselves. That is, if they choose to be strongly on the side of labor, consumers, children, women and the small taxpayers. Remember, the GOP regularly loots the Treasury to increase corporate welfare.
2. Recruit working class candidates whether urban, suburban or rural. The victory of Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in the state of Washington’s Third Congressional District – beating a Trump-endorsed election-denier and Fox News regular, Joe Kent, should be a case study for the Dems. Given only a two percent chance of winning the Republican-leaning district by FiveThirtyEight’s final forecast, this young mother who co-owns an auto repair shop with her husband, in rural Skamania County, scored a campaign victory.
New York Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg described how Perez brought her life’s experiences to voters on the campaign trail. Perez spoke of building their hillside house because they couldn’t get a mortgage to buy one. She spoke of bringing her young son to work because they couldn’t find childcare. She turned the theme of “freedom” powerfully against the authoritarian-minded Kent.
Representative-elect Gluesenkamp Perez listened to herself and to her voters. Her underdog race wasn’t encumbered by corporate-conflicted political media consultants whose long grip on so many Democratic campaigns has hamstrung the Party into avoidable defeat after defeat.
3. Dems should start listening to the progressive civic advocates and leaders who have been at the center of many popular changes for the better in our country. About two dozen of them offered their ideas for winning votes in a Zoom conference for Democratic candidates and their staff in July (See winningamerica.net).
Most of the candidates wouldn’t or couldn’t break through the usual force field that the highly-paid, control-freakish consultants create to exclude input from authentic reformers. Too bad, since any one or two of the many suggestions from this Zoom conference would have tipped the House’s closest races in favor of the Democrats.
The big loser in the race for governor of Texas against a truly mean Republican Greg Abbott was Beto O’Rourke. He managed to campaign in every county without absorbing the ways to campaign in rural areas from the state’s best communicator – Jim Hightower. (See, https://hightowerlowdown.org/).
Just totaling up unreturned calls, by progressive leaders such as by Hightower to Democratic candidates would reveal the deadly insularity of campaigns that measure their progress by whether they can out-dial the GOP for campaign dollars.
4. The Democratic Party better join up with the NationalPopularVote.com, designed to expand the interstate compact of states pledged to give their Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. Launched by entrepreneur Steve Silberstein, this movement has persuaded states with a total of 195 Electoral College votes to pass legislation that prevents presidential votes from being cancelled out at the state level. Once states totaling 270 Electoral College votes adopt the National Popular Vote bill, the Democrats would be spared a third presidential loss. (The Democrats won the popular vote but lost the presidency in 2000 to G.W. Bush and in 2016 to Donald J. Trump). Since the Dems picked up four new governorships, there is a chance to reach 270 by 2024.
5. It is time for a new group of Democratic Party managers, coaches and trainers to replace entrenched apparatchiks who over the past 30 years have lost so many winnable state and national elections or won others by such narrow margins as to limit progress.
Americans who vote for the Democrats need fresh language, no more scapegoating of small third parties, and a revival of “on-your-side” policies and messaging domestically. Waging peace abroad to replace the Empire-driven two-party consensus that is boomeranging and devouring our domestic priorities, such as abolishing poverty (See, Washington Post article: Universal Basic Income Has Been Tested Repeatedly. It Works. Will America Ever Embrace It?), would also be a fresh start for the war-prone Democratic Party.