We have been here before; perched precariously on the verge of economic collapse, yet there is no one offering a vision for the future that holds any appeal to the working class, the backbone of the country. Bush, Guliani, Hagel and even McCain can capture the imaginations of the wealthy as well as the poor masses that hold tight to their religion because there is little else to provide them the hope they need just to get out of bed each morning. But what do Democrats have to offer in the way of vision, “we’re better for you, trust us.” Sounds an awful lot like “eat your spinach, it’s good for you.” When has that ever worked?
It’s not about the right candidate with the charisma and charm of a Bill Clinton, nor is it a simple matter of finding the perfect slogan or catch phrase. Radical change is what will win the hearts of Americans. Every poll shows that we’re not happy with the road we are on, nor do we believe we are better off than we were six years ago. We are suffering, we are scared, so get off your butts and show us a better way, we are begging for it. By not doing exactly that, you prove to voters that you don’t care about what concerns them and you are no better than the Republicans, looking out for the same wealthy interests.
Democrats sing the praises of FDR but refuse to learn the lessons that his leadership provided. Americans want a forward thinking leader. We want someone to project a vision of the future that addresses the problems we see no end to. We’re ready for a radical restructuring of our economy that moves us away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources. We want to keep the programs that provide a social safety net for those who need it, and we realize that we need them now more than ever before. FDR changed the relationship between government and the people and provided the jobs and social programs that put an end to the kind of suffering that the Republicans and corporatists had unleashed on the country. He was rewarded with reelection not once, but twice. What don’t Democrats get about that?
This could be a very exciting time instead of one of the most fearful in our history. Our national psyche has been damaged by our decline in world status. Whether we admit it or not, we took pride in the fact that we were on the cutting edge of technology and production of goods the whole world wanted. But we no longer have that sense of pride. We are demoralized by our downward slide, frightened by our growing trade deficit and feel helpless because we are not asked, let alone required to participate in bringing about a better way. Yes, people can be manipulated into voting for anything if the right words are used. Frank Luntz is busy testing the words that will evoke positive emotions from voters and will then drill them into Republican Congressman as they head out on the campaign trail. But people also respond to truth.
We can tell on a visceral level when someone is giving it to us straight and we’re even willing to sacrifice for a better future if asked honestly to do so. Not in the way that Walter Mondale did, saying that of course he would have to raise taxes, but by presenting it in a way that appeals to our emotional need to be better than we are. Present it as hard work instead of sacrifice, integrity as opposed to exploitation, and offer pride as a replacement for the feelings of dread that now plague us. Go ahead, challenge us, we are not as timid as you think. We like the idea of our adventurous ancestors who came to this country not knowing what they would find. We’re not afraid to step into the unknown. Go ahead, appeal to our better natures and demand that we take part. You might be pleasantly surprised by our reaction.