I’m struck at how many people have come up to me recently and said, “Trump’s going to get re-elected, isn’t he?” And in each case, when I drilled down to ask why, I bumped into the Democratic presidential debates in June. I think a lot of Americans were shocked by some of the things they heard there. I was.
I was shocked that so many candidates in the party whose nominee I was planning to support want to get rid of the private health insurance covering some 250 million Americans and have “Medicare for All” instead. I think we should strengthen Obamacare and eventually add a public option.
I was shocked that so many were ready to decriminalize illegal entry into our country. I think people should have to ring the doorbell before they enter my house or my country.
I was shocked at all those hands raised in support of providing comprehensive health coverage to unauthorized immigrants. I think promises we’ve made to our fellow Americans should take priority, like to veterans in need of better health care.
And I was shocked by how feeble was front-runner Joe Biden’s response to the attack from Kamala Harris — and to the more extreme ideas promoted by those to his left.
So, I wasn’t surprised to hear so many people expressing fear that the racist, divisive, climate-change-denying, woman-abusing jerk who is our president was going to get re-elected, and was even seeing his poll numbers rise.
Dear Democrats: This is not complicated! Just nominate a decent, sane person, one committed to reunifying the country and creating more good jobs, a person who can gain the support of the independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women who abandoned Donald Trump in the midterms and thus swung the House of Representatives to the Democrats and could do the same for the presidency. And that candidate can win!
But, please, spare me the revolution! It can wait. Win the presidency, hold the House and narrow the spread in the Senate, and a lot of good things still can be accomplished. “No,” you say, “the left wants a revolution now!” OK, I’ll give the left a revolution now: four more years of Donald Trump.
That will be a revolution.
Four years of Trump feeling validated in all the crazy stuff he’s done and said. Four years of Trump unburdened by the need to run for re-election and able to amplify his racism, make Ivanka secretary of state, appoint even more crackpots to his Cabinet and likely get to name two right-wing Supreme Court justices under age 40.
Yes, sir, that will be a revolution!
It will be an overthrow of all the norms, values, rules and institutions that we cherish, that made us who we are and that have united us in this common project called the United States of America.
If the fear of that doesn’t motivate the Democratic Party’s base, then shame on those people. Not all elections are equal. Some elections are a vote for great changes — like the Great Society. Others are a vote to save the country. This election is the latter.
That doesn’t mean a Democratic candidate should stand for nothing, just keep it simple: Focus on building national unity and good jobs.
I say national unity because many Americans are terrified and troubled by how bitterly divided, and therefore paralyzed, the country has become. There is an opening for a unifier.
And I say good jobs because when the wealth of the top 1% equals that of the bottom 90%, we do have to redivide the pie. I favor raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to subsidize universal pre-K education and to reduce the burden of student loans. Let’s give kids a head start and college grads a fresh start.
But I’m disturbed that so few of the Democratic candidates don’t also talk about growing the pie, let alone celebrating American entrepreneurs and risk-takers. Where do they think jobs come from?
The winning message is to double down on redividing the pie in ways that give everyone an opportunity for a slice while also growing the pie sustainably.
Trump is growing the pie by cannibalizing the future. He is creating a growth spurt by building up enormous financial and carbon debts that our kids will pay for.
Democrats should focus on how we create sustainable wealth and good jobs, which is the American public-private partnership model: Government enriches the soil and entrepreneurs grow the companies.
It has always been what’s made us rich, and we’ve drifted away from it: investing in quality education and basic scientific research; promulgating the right laws and regulations to incentivize risk-taking and prevent recklessness and monopolies that can cripple free markets; encouraging legal immigration of both high-energy and high-IQ foreigners; and building the world’s best enabling infrastructure — ports, roads, bandwidth and basic social safety nets.
Ask Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island’s governor, and my kind of Democrat. She was just elected in 2018 for a second term. In both her elections she had to win a primary against a more-left Democrat. When Raimondo took office in 2015, Rhode Island had unemployment near 7%, and over 20% in some of the building trades.
“When I ran in 2014, there was a temptation to appeal to particular constituencies — gun safety, choice, all things that I believe in,” Raimondo recalled. “I resisted that temptation because I felt the single greatest issue was economic insecurity and people who were afraid they were never going to get a job. So I said there are not three or four issues, there’s one issue: jobs.” Unemployment in Rhode Island today is about 3.6%.
Raimondo has faced a constant refrain from critics on her left that she is too close to business. “I created an incentive program for companies to get a tax subsidy if they created jobs that pay above our state’s median income or jobs in advanced industries,” she noted. “I have cut small-business taxes two years in a row since 2015. I am not ashamed of any of that.”
Because, she continued, “I listen to people every day, and you hear what they are worried about. People say to me, ‘Governor, I just got a real job.’ And I’d ask them, ‘What is a real job?’ And they’d say, ‘It’s a job where I can support my family with real benefits.’ So I named our state job-training program ‘Real Jobs Rhode Island.’ ” It will be impossible to “sustain a vibrant democracy with this level of inequality.”
The right answer is to reinvigorate the key elements of a healthy public-private partnership, said Raimondo: higher taxes on wealthier people, more investments in affordable housing, infrastructure and universal pre-K, and empowering the private sector to create more real jobs — “so that no one who is working full time at any job should have to collect Medicaid and need food stamps to make ends meet.”
Concluded Raimondo: “I am no apologist for a brand of capitalism that leads to unsustainable inequality. But I do believe a more responsible capitalism is necessary for growth. We need to redivide the pie and grow the pie. I am a ‘pro-growth Democrat.’ I am for growing the pie as long as everyone has a shot at getting their slice.”
That’s a simple message that can connect with enough Democrats — as well as independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women — to win the White House.