We didn’t lose the policy debate against the GOP in 2016—we won. We didn’t lose the “message war”, especially considering that the GOP’s only purpose is to facilitate the transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the top 1%.
The GOP, in fact, can never win on policy, so they always do two things:
- They focus on “the culture wars” of phony religious piety, immigrant-bashing, and guns to gin up their increasingly desperate base
- More importantly, they exploit the hell out of the procedural/structural advantages they have
They will hold judge seats open—even on the Supreme Court—until a republican is elected. They will carve up districts to make it impossible for Democrats to win a majority, and they will abuse a bizarre electoral system that gives few people in vast rural areas tremendous voting power.
Most people focused on the fact that 3 million more people voted for Hillary even though she still lost. But Democrats also had more votes for the House, and received 11 million more votes in the US Senate elections for 2016. Yet in each case, although we won the votes, we LOST the election.
The GOP, however, has ruled as if they had a mandate—from destroying environmental protections, gutting consumer safeguards, appointing zealots, transferring wealth to the upper class, and they are on the verge of completely obliterating the last stronghold of Democratic power: organized labor. They have managed to do this everywhere they hold power, even in states like mine where Democrats outnumber republicans.
We are at a crossroads. Democrats squandered our opportunities when we had the levers of power back in 2008. We have to change our mindset. We have to win. Our people and planet depend on it. I have a few ideas of my own, but I’m also heavily borrowing from a book that should be mandatory reading by every Dem leader: “It’s Time to Fight Dirty” by David Faris.
1. The first step is to get back a slim majority. Democrats need to win as many seats as they can in the midterms this year, with an eye on 2020—a presidential election year that coincides with the drawing of legislative and Congressional districts. We have the winds at our backs, and if we can eke out a majority, then we get to work.
2. The second steps require nothing more than Congress passing laws. None of the below require a constitutional amendment:
- Abolish the filibuster in the Senate—something we should have done long ago. (The GOP already nuked it for judges, we need to finish it off.)
- Make D.C. a state, which it deserves. This would add two black Democratic senators to the Senate. (You can bet if this place was filled with republicans, it’d have been a state decades ago.)
- Make Puerto Rico a state, which it also deserves. This would add two Hispanic Democrats to the Senate. (I think we’ve already seen this year that their current status as an ignored commonwealth isn’t working.)
- Expand the Supreme Court to 11 justices. Try 40-50 year olds this time. (For more reasons on why this is a good idea, read this.)
Faris has more radical ideas, such as breaking California into multiple states in order to get even more Senators. Again, that wouldn’t require a constitutional amendment and the tradeoff would be enormous. No longer would we be ruled by the oligarchy. Never again would white supremacists be making laws.
Once you get a cemented majority, then you can get to work on saving our republic.
3. The third steps involve nothing more than enshrining our rights.
Voting rights. The Dems should at least fight as hard to expand voting rights as the GOP does to suppress it. The Constitution states Congress has the power to set the rules for federal elections.
So many opportunities to expand democracy:
- Require early voting for all states
- Require pre-registration of 17-year olds
- Forbid voter-ID laws or any requirement not stated in the Constitution (BTW, Florida does this— for gun rights. No local ordinance against guns not stated in our Constitution.)
- Make Election Day a national holiday
- Make it a federal crime to intimidate a voter (How the hell is this NOT a law already??)
Then we can work on lowering the voting age to 16 (which really scares the NRA).
There are several options. We can do one or a combination of the following:
- Require independent commissions, or
- Shortest split-line method, or
- Ranked choice voting, or even
- Mixed-member proportional representation
I would argue that none of these suggestions are actually “dirty”.
“Dirty” would be gerrymandering to OUR benefit, which you’ll see is not one of my suggestions.
“Dirty” would be targeting GOP voters and making it ridiculously hard to vote. To give you an idea of what that might look like would be a stupid law that targeted, say, the elderly in affluent areas. We could try to impose a rule that says “no cars within one mile of a voting place” due to the “threat of terrorism” from car bombs. This would make it difficult for many elderly citizens to vote. Ridiculous you say? Yeah—so is requiring IDs to combat completely non-existent in-person “voting fraud”!! So is requiring abortion providers to have hospital admission privileges for the “health of the patient”!! THAT, my friends, is truly fighting dirty—something we would never do and I don’t advocate doing.
But fighting for people to actually vote? Fighting to make elections fair? Those are worth doing. We don’t have to fight “GOP dirty” to win, but we do need to fight dirty—and by dirty, I mean fight hard for what’s right.
What a welcome change that would be.