Dems Should Play Offense | by Edward Hamburg


In response to:

No More Nice Dems from the December 19, 2019 concern

Brand New Dems? from the Might 28, 2020 concern

To the Editors:

Joseph O’Neill produced two glorious essays on modern American politics: “No Extra Good Dems” [NYR, December 19, 2019] and “Model New Dems?” [NYR, May 28, 2020]. Each must be important studying for these of us within the attentive liberal public, however much more so by each Democratic candidate in addition to the advisers and organizers behind them.

Museo del Prado, Madrid‘And so was his grandfather’; etching by Francisco Goya, 1797–1799. For extra on Goya, see the essay by Julian Bell on this concern.

My concern, nevertheless, is that many might interpret his prescriptions in “Model New Dems?” too actually—that the weaknesses of the Democratic Occasion O’Neill so cogently describes could be remedied solely by the efforts of a present-day Don Draper devising killer slogans on his workplace sofa.

Don’t get me improper: the Democrats desperately want killer slogans, notably these extending from a compelling new model. However as a enterprise government, I’m reminded that the very best manufacturers I’ve seen developed come from corporations with clear identities of who they’re and clear visions of what they need to do.

The strong Republican model to which O’Neill speaks displays such readability within the celebration’s id and imaginative and prescient. They’re the assured, aggressive protectors of the benefits loved, and prejudices maintained, by constituencies whose pursuits and standing are challenged by the modern world financial system and elevated diversification of American society. Republicans envision a delegitimized and disabled public sector, as solely authorities has the facility to abridge current privileges and speed up the continued financial and societal transformations. This id and imaginative and prescient gestated underneath Barry Goldwater, was popularized with Ronald Reagan, acquired successfully applied by George W. Bush, and is exemplified by Donald Trump.

In distinction, the shapeless Democratic model deplored by O’Neill displays the celebration’s amorphous id and imaginative and prescient. They lived for years off the remnants of the New Deal and Nice Society, tried Clinton-like pivots, after which struggled to increase “Hope and Change” right into a coherent agenda that extends past well being care. A brand new Democratic id declaring itself the celebration of a vibrantly numerous twenty-first-century America—with a brand new imaginative and prescient primarily based on the idea that authorities is usually a optimistic pressure able to addressing such modern imperatives as local weather change, financial inequality, legal justice reform, ladies’s rights, and reasonably priced well being care—could be very important contributions to O’Neill’s rebranding requirement.

Edward Hamburg
Chicago, Illinois

Joseph O’Neill replies:

Edward Hamburg’s considerate letter in impact asks two good questions: Is PR sufficient? Shouldn’t the Democratic Occasion’s id foreground a transparent ideology?

Taking the second query first: I argue that the Democratic Occasion’s public ideological id is already the one he describes: “The celebration of a vibrantly numerous twenty-first-century America—with a brand new imaginative and prescient primarily based on the idea that authorities is usually a optimistic pressure able to addressing such modern imperatives as local weather change, financial inequality, legal justice reform, ladies’s rights, and reasonably priced well being care.” This id is descriptively wonderful, even inspiring; however it doesn’t add as much as a robust celebration model. It doesn’t durably entice low-information apolitical centrists, nor does it persistently encourage the belief and loyalty of the celebration base. If it did, we wouldn’t hold shedding elections we shouldn’t lose. The Republican Occasion wouldn’t hold profitable elections it shouldn’t win.

A quick reply to Hamburg’s first query could be: within the matter of negatively branding the GOP, vigorous PR—that’s, an efficient unfavourable branding operation—would go a great distance towards making the GOP extra beatable and actual progress extra achievable. The thriller is why so many Democrats, whether or not on the left or proper of the celebration, don’t perceive this. Within the matter of bettering perceptions of the Democratic Occasion within the eyes of its personal supporters and potential allies, PR is nowhere close to sufficient. I argue that what’s required could be very substantive: a celebration dedicated to utilizing its energy to do the desire of Democrats, notably the grassroots activists who ship the votes, and the donations, wanted for victory. Once more, it appears to not happen to many Democratic officers that their job is to behave in such a approach as to make Democrats pleased and Republicans sad.

However what makes a Democrat pleased? What does being a Democrat imply? Who must be a Democrat? These are very important questions that advantage pressing, deeper investigation. Inevitably, any reply will to a level rely on the actual ideology of the answerer. But in addition inevitably, a superb reply will reckon with our present actuality, which is that america is basically underneath the management of a celebration intent on the destruction of American democracy. Democrats should do one thing totally different, and quick.



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