Republicans Rely Upon Voter Amnesia To Win Elections
As Democrats, one of our biggest obstacles to winning elections is voter amnesia. Most voters aren’t political junkies and don’t remember that the economy invariably does better when the Democrats are in charge. As Democrats, one of our most important jobs is refresh voter memories and inform them again and again that if the GOP is in charge, they will be worse off financially.
During their presidencies, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman set the example we all need to follow in refreshing voter memories. One of FDR’s consistent themes during his successful re-election campaigns in 1936, 1940 and 1944 was to remind the voters that the economy collapsed during the Hoover Presidency and that a return to power by the GOP would bring about another Depression.
Perhaps the best example of this was FDR’s “Fala speech” of September 23, 1944. In this brilliant piece of oratory, FDR (justifiably) blamed the GOP for the Great Depression and took credit for the country’s economic progress since 1933: “You are, most of you, old enough to remember what things were like for labor in 1932…You remember the long, hard road, with its gains and its setbacks, which we have traveled together ever since those days. Now there are some politicians who do not remember that far back, and there are some who remember but find it convenient to forget. No, the record is not to be washed away that easily.”
Truman’s 1948 speech to the Democratic Convention echoed similar themes. In this speech, Truman cited the economic progress the American people had made since 1933. At the same time — like FDR — he blamed GOP policies for the Great Depression: “The situation in 1932 was due to the policies of the Republican Party control of the Government of the United States. The Republican Party, as I said a while ago, favors the privileged few and not the common everyday man. Ever since its inception, that party has been under the control of special privilege.”
Unfortunately, we Democrats sometimes have neglected to follow FDR and Truman’s example and we have all paid a price for it. When Al Gore ran for President in 2000, the economy was booming and we were running our first budget surpluses in decades. Yet Gore ran away from Bill Clinton and his accomplishments — he almost pretended that Clinton didn’t exist. Nor did Gore mention the mess he inherited from the Republicans.
Instead, Gore made the mistake of responding to pressure from the “liberal” mainstream media and the GOP to distance himself from Clinton. That was completely unnecessary since Clinton was at 65% approval in 2000. As a result, Gore lost an election that should’ve been easily won and we ended up with eight years of George W. Bush.
As we all know, Barack Obama inherited a collapsing economy and two mismanaged foreign wars from Bush. The Republicans responded to the Democratic landslides of 2006 and 2008 by “morphing” into the Tea Party and pretending that George W. Bush never existed. The media passed on to the public the canard that the Tea Party was brand new even though it was still the same old reactionary GOP.
In the 2010 election cycle, Democrats ran away from Obama and his accomplishments. Moreover, many Democrats responded to mainstream media and GOP pressure not to blame Bush for the then stagnant economy. In addition, the Democrats treated the Bush recession like some kind of natural catastrophe like a tornado or a hurricane. As a result, the GOP was able to successfully blame Obama for the 2008–09 recession and the unpopular bank bailout.
By the 2016 election cycle, President Obama had largely cleaned up Bush’s mess. The economy was creating 200,000 new jobs per month, the annual deficit had been reduced by 75%, middle class wages were up and poverty was down. It was the best economic performance since Bill Clinton’s second term.
Yet the Democrats didn’t refresh voter memories and instead ran on the theme that Trump is a bad person. (Yes. Trump is a loathsome individual.) This allowed the Republicans to falsely claim that the economy was doing poorly and that they could fix it. We did nothing to rebut the usual phony Republican claims that we have seen since the 1930s and 1940s.
Now that the GOP controls the White House and the Congress, all of President Obama’s hard won progress is in jeopardy. Already, wages are stagnant, gas prices are soaring and the annual budget deficit has doubled. In rural areas, the farmers are facing sinking commodity prices and rising prices for raw materials due to Trump’s foolish trade wars.
Trump and the Republicans are already laying the groundwork for another recession. This current experiment in an all GOP government won’t end well. The last time two times the Republicans controlled D.C. was during the 1920s and the George W. Bush Administration. In both instances, the GOP wrecked the economy.
In some future cycle in the near future, we will face a GOP recession and the absence of Donald Trump. The GOP will claim they never really supported Trump and pretend — like George W. Bush — that he never existed. We as Democrats need to bring back FDR and Truman’s game plan and remind the voters again and again that the Democrats are much better for the economy and the American people. As Harry Truman said: “The only new thing in the world is the history you do not know.”