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Columnist John Sheirer: Democrats more than merely anti-Trump

  • President Donald Trump speaks during a lunch meeting to discuss health care legislation with Republican senators, at the White House in Washington, July 19, 2017. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)


Monday, August 07, 2017

I just got my “Official Resistance Membership Card.” I guess I can kiss my Trump presidential pardon goodbye.

Actually, I got a letter from the Democratic Party thanking me for a recent contribution. Along with the letter was that “membership card,” a wallet-sized reminder listing what my contribution supports: affordable health care, reliable Social Security, clean air, clean water, healthy planet, reproductive freedom and civil rights.

It’s a small card, but I’d add quite a few values of the Democratic Party (in no particular order): minimum wage increases, voting rights, unions, campaign finance reform, Wall Street reform, LGBT rights, religious freedom, freedom of the press, gun-safety regulation, equal pay, infrastructure and manufacturing support, college affordability, education funding and reform, arts funding, fair tax systems, jobs and job-training programs, diplomacy over war, criminal justice reform, drug law reform, support for Medicaid and Medicare, promotion of small business over corporations, a strong social safety net, support for veterans, comprehensive immigration reform, health and safety regulations, funding for medical research, conversion to clean/green energy, and reality-based policies.

That’s a substantial list, far longer than Trump’s jingoistic, four-word slogan. Democrats aren’t skilled at fitting our ideas onto the front of a cap.

Ironically, despite the conventional punditry that says Democrats don’t stand for anything except Trump resistance, the Democratic Party positions are readily available to anyone who reads beyond hats or bumper stickers. All a voter has to do is go to the party’s website or read the official platform or listen to nearly every Democratic office-holder in the country or recall former Democratic President Barack Obama or our most recent Democratic presidential nominee. Heck, just visit Hillary Clinton’s campaign website, which is still a blueprint for moving the country in a liberal, progressive, “Big-D-Democratic” direction.

Last year, when my Republican friends told me that Clinton was a power-hungry criminal who would destroy America, I always asked if they knew her positions on the issues. They usually responded by claiming she wanted to abort children minutes before birth and take away everyone’s guns.

That’s malarkey, of course. My Republican friends got their information from right-wing websites, Fox News, and viral memes propagated by the Trump campaign and Russian spammers. I directed these friends to Clinton’s website, but they refused to because they said they already knew everything about her. They didn’t.

Unfortunately, a significant minority of my liberal friends refused to vote for Clinton because they were convinced that she was a closet Republican who cheated to win the nomination and was just as bad as Trump. More malarkey, some of it from those same Russians, as we’ve now discovered.

I also asked them if they had visited Clinton’s website to evaluate her views and proposals. Few had. I asked if they agreed with liberal hero Bernie Sanders’s eventual endorsement of Clinton. Most said it didn’t matter. They claimed to know all they needed to know and would never vote for Clinton. Most regret that decision now.

As a communications professional, I understand that the meaning of a message resides more in what’s received than what’s transmitted. Yes, Democrats need better messaging of our values. But we have metric tons of Republican misinformation, extreme gerrymandering and Trumpitude to battle, so messaging isn’t easy. I’ll keep shouting our platform with my increasingly hoarse voice and keep hoping the party’s bigwigs are working on strategies to connect with enough voters to win Congress in 2018 and the Electoral College (not just the popular vote) in 2020.

Polls show that Americans don’t much like either major party these days. But those same polls also show that Americans support the positions, ideas, and values of the Democratic Party far more than those of the Republican Party. Our challenge as Democrats is to help our fellow Americans move beyond party objections and focus on the issues. Republicans are thrilled when Americans ignore issues and blame both parties because that shifts the blame away from their party’s frequent rejection of common sense, equality, justice, opportunity, and basic American ideals.

A recent Washington Post/ABC poll showed that 52 percent of Americans think the Democratic Party “just stands against Trump,” while only 37 percent believe we “stand for something.” Pundits hitched this poll to their narrative that Democrats are only anti-Trump obstructionists, a flawed analysis of an incomplete poll question. Clearly, “standing against Trump” and “standing for something” aren’t mutually exclusive. Most Democrats I know would join me in both camps.

Yes, I want to resist Trump because he’s probably the most inappropriate person ever to inhabit the White House. Beyond his repugnant character, Trump is working against pretty much every liberal/progressive/Democratic initiative that has actually made America great as we continue to work toward “a more perfect union.”

As much as I resist Trump and his enablers with my full patriotic spirit, that’s not the only reason I’m a Democrat who works for Democratic causes and candidates. Our party has a better vision for the country than the regression, corporatism, corruption, incivility and oligarchy that Trump and the Republican Party offer.

Anyone still unsure about what Democrats stand for, please reread the first few paragraphs of this column. Our views don’t fit on a hat. But they do fit in an open mind.

John Sheirer is an author and teacher who lives in Florence. His most recent book is, “Donald Trump’s Top Secret Concession Speech.” Find him at JohnSheirer.com.