It all goes down next week. The long-awaited midterms are before us, and at the end of the day what will matter is who shows up – and who doesn’t.
Once the results are calculated, the winners and losers assessed, and the pundits have had their say, everyone will quickly move on to the regularly schedule lives. That is, until the next presidential election in 2020, which is guaranteed to be another controversial and divisive campaign cycle.
In this moment when Republicans control virtually every level of power, and the rest of us are scrambling looking for leadership and direction, the question that I have for the Democratic Party is simple: What is the plan?
CNN recently released a poll that has former Vice President Joe Biden favored to win the Democratic Party nomination for the 2020 election. Biden hasn’t even officially announced his candidacy, but regardless, it says a lot about where things are at this moment. No disrespect to the former VP—who, I believe, would have crushed Trump in 201—but it’s time for some new blood.
People, especially our youngest newest voters, are yearning for change; a fresh voice that can speak to their issues and be their champion. A lot of them feel as if the system will always be the same, and if they don’t see a representation of themselves and a true fighter for their causes, they may once again default to the apathy that contributed to this current dreadful political quagmire.
Figuring out who that individual could be easier said than done, and I’m not even sure that there is anyone on the horizon who can beat Trump and bring it all the way home. There are a ton of potentials, but the Party hasn’t really narrowed it down—which is tragic, especially as Trump has been campaigning for re-election since the day after he won.
In addition to a clear candidate, Dems must also have a clear strategy. Are people still ‘going high’ in the name of Michelle Obama, or are they getting in the mud and fighting? What are the precise policies on everything from immigration to college affordability, and what are the easy digestible selling points for each? And, why can’t the Dems reach the mainstream working class when they are the party actually advocating for their needs? This is incredibly frustrating!
From the outside looking in, it appears that there’s a severe messaging problem, as well as a lack of cohesion among Democrats. For example, why oh why did Senator Elizabeth Warren release her DNA results a few weeks back to “prove” her Native American heritage? Wouldn’t it have been better for her to wait until after the Midterms and, more importantly, consult with the Cherokee Nation about her extremely minimal Native connection so they could advise her on how to proceed? Now, Trump has even more ammunition against a potential 2020 contender. Just another case of no unity, strategic messaging or clear plan of action.
Health care reform, President Obama’s signature baby, is once again top of mind for many of us. Some Democrats are actually running on health care for the midterms, but somehow, Republicans have hijacked the conversation. Protections for people with pre-existing conditions only became possible because of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. How in the world are Republicans now claiming this as their issue when they have done nothing but work to ‘repeal and replace’ the ACA? And how have Dems allowed them to spread these lies and change the narrative? Again, it is utterly maddening.
It goes without saying that the 2016 Presidential election saw a great divide between the Democratic establishment and the more progressive base that was behind Bernie Sanders. Two years later, it appears that the split is as sharp as ever. Some Democratic politicians continue to position themselves as centrists without realizing that this is nowhere near a winning strategy.
We need exciting thinkers who have the energy and passion to fight for the issues that impact working-class voters care about: economic prosperity, health care, education, safe neighborhoods and the ability to move ahead in life. The only way to grow and galvanize the Democratic base is through progressive thinking and strategic battle.
Only about 49 percent of eligible millennials voted in 2016, compared to 69 percent of eligible baby boomers. When millennials outnumber baby boomers and represent more than one quarter of the nation’s population, the future of this country literally rests in their hands. If Democrats hope to keep them in their corner, they need to be much more aggressive in their approach, stop compromising and stick to the principles that attracted young people to the Party in the first place: inclusion, diversity, progressive ideals, equality, the social safety net, protections for minority classes and more.
It’s time to stop “going high” and start aiming directly at the forces that are trying to push us back to an era where Black folks were barely seen, and rarely heard.
Amy Dubois Barnett is the Chief Content Officer of theGrio and EVP, Digital for Entertainment Studios Global Media, one of the largest independent producers and distributors of film and television.