“There is nothing new in the world except for the history you do not know.”
A brand new CNN poll indicates that the GOP has fallen to an all time low approval rating of 29%. That is remarkable since the GOP can usually count on a floor of 35% approval. The current GOP approval rating is even lower than the previous lows of 30% during the 2013 government shutdown and 30% during the impeachment debacle in 1998.
What is frustrating is that in both previous instances of GOP record unpopularity, the GOP has come back off the mat to win unified control of all of the branches in Washington, D.C. This is because the voters forgot about the GOP’s radicalism and incompetence. Moreover, the Democrats let the GOP off the hook by failing to refresh the memories of voters.
After the ludicrous GOP attempt to impeach Bill Clinton, the GOP “won” the 2000 presidential election and both Houses of Congress. In my opinion, one of the main causes of that debacle was that Al Gore failed to remind people of the GOP’s irresponsibility and the achievements of the Clinton-Gore Administration.
Gore ran during a time of peace and prosperity but you would have never known it from listening to his rhetoric. He talked about how the election was only about the future even though unemployment was 4%, middle class wages were up and poverty was down. It was the best economy since the boom of the 1960s.
Similarly, the Democrats in 2014 allowed the voters to forget about the disastrous GOP government shutdown of 2013 which cost the economy 120,000 jobs and $24 billion. The aim of the shutdown was to prevent 20 million Americans from being insured. Yet we didn’t talk about it in 2014. I believe that Brad Ashford and I were the only Democrats who ran against the government shutdown in 2014.
In contrast, the Republicans aren’t shy about messaging their “achievements” on the rare occasions in which they are in a position to do so. Last summer, I was watching a replay of George H.W. Bush’s 1988 Republican Convention speech. This was the speech where Bush said: “Read my lips, no new taxes.”
What was remarkable about that speech was that Bush ticked off a list of economic indicators that had improved since 1980 and blamed any poor results on Jimmy Carter. The fact that the national debt had tripled since 1980 and all of the gains had gone to the top wasn’t mentioned and by implication was blamed on the Democrats. The unfortunate thing was that it worked.
The Democrats haven’t always done a poor job of messaging our achievements and highlighting GOP failures. Between 1932 and 1948, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman “ran” against Hoover’s economic policies. They effectively pointed out the improved economic conditions (even though they weren’t perfect) and correctly warned the voters that a return to power by the GOP would result in another economic depression.
In my opinion, the Trump presidency will inevitably end in failure. This presidency will not end well in light of Trump’s lack of suitability for the office and his trickle down economic policies. When that failure occurs, every Republican will claim that they never really supported Trump and ask the voters for a do-over. And the mainstream press will buy it.
Similarly, you never hear about the failed George W. Bush presidency from the Republicans and the mainstream press. Beginning in 2009, the GOP “morphed” into the Tea Party and pretended it was a brand new movement even though 96% of the voters who claimed allegiance with the Tea Party voted for McCain in 2008.
And we Democrats let the GOP get away with it. In the 2010 cycle, Obama and the Democrats got blamed by the voters for the Bush recession and the wildly unpopular bank bailout. There was no talk from any Democrat about the cause of the economic collapse of 2008–09. It was just omitted.
The Democratic Party had an outstanding record on the economy and health care in both the Clinton and the Obama presidencies. If we don’t message our achievements, nobody will do it for us. We certainly can’t count on the mainstream press since they are easily manipulated by the GOP to follow the latest bright, shiny object.
At the same time, we need to inform the voters that if the Republicans maintain power, the economy will go into a recession and millions of Americans will lose their health care. Like Hoover and Bush, Trump’s policies will wreck the economy again. It’s that simple.
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman said it best: “Progressives are much too willing to cede history to the other side. Legends about the past matter. Really bad economics flourishes in part because Republicans constantly extol the Reagan record, while Democrats rarely mention how shabby that record was compared with the growth in jobs and incomes under Clinton. The combination of lies, incompetence, and corruption that made the Iraq venture the moral and policy disaster it was should not be allowed to slip into the mists.’..There’s a reason conservatives constantly publish books and articles glorifying Harding and Coolidge while sliming FDR; there’s a reason they’re still running against Jimmy Carter; and there’s a reason they’re doing their best to rehabilitate W. And progressives need to fight back.”