November 20, 2016 by swingstatevoter
The Democratic Party had a major catastrophe in the 2016 election: messaging. As the dust settled from the calamity on November 8, the media and the country began to peel back the wreckage of an email server, Access Hollywood, the Clinton Foundation, and Miss Universe. Beneath all the rubble lay the untouched economic message that Nancy Pelosi, a leading voice in the Democratic Party, should have delivered to the rural Democratic voters, but instead had cast aside in the interest of focusing on social issues that appealed to the more elite and liberal electorate.
Nancy Pelosi was groundbreaking in that she was the first woman and Italian-American Speaker of the House, and she was instrumental in the passage of key legislation such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Though her successes are to be admired, we must not be blinded to her losing touch with the overall vision and accountability of the Democratic Party to its core constituency. Historically, the electorate of the Party has been very eclectic; union workers, progressives, Hollywood liberals, university elites, and minorities have all been drawn to the economic and social policies of the Democratic Party since the post-Civil Rights era.
Yet, sometime in the mid-2000s the rural economic message seemed to get lost somewhere behind the priorities of the hot-button social policies, and the legislation Democrats pushed to help the working class did not get drummed up as loudly as the milestones made with respect to LGBT or women’s rights. Therefore, after Republicans had spent six years blocking the passage of the very legislation that Donald Trump began promising to working class voters on the campaign trail, warning bells should have been ringing in Pelosi’s ears. She had more than merely a duty, she had a responsibility to speak to those voters during the 2016 election. Pelosi should have taken to every media station, written on every social media platform, and released a press statement to highlight the hijacking of the Democratic platform: “Donald Trump’s promises to have companies bring their jobs back from overseas, to provide more benefits to veterans, and to give tax benefits to small businesses are the very types of legislation Democrats have already been trying to pass for the last six years but the Republicans have repeatedly blocked. The Democrats are on the side of working class and middle class Americans, but the Republican Party has been punishing the American people for years and we will no longer allow them to pretend they haven’t failed in these opportunities to help you.”
But she did not do that. Instead, she and all other Democratic leaders failed to inform the disheartened voters that the Party had not in fact forgotten about them; they merely spent the past six years focusing on a different message. Yet with all this in mind, Nancy Pelosi does not see that this was a lost opportunity, a neglected responsibility, or a complete oversight of the Democratic Party. On 11/17/2016, when speaking to the press about evaluating what happened in this election, Pelosi stated, “[W]e have to do our after action review thoroughly and see what we could have done differently, but a lot of it was beyond our control.”
As Jonathan Swift once eloquently stated, “Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired.” If Nancy Pelosi and other leadership in the Democratic Party have not yet learned that the failures of the past few elections to resonate with Democratic voters falls squarely on their shoulders by virtue of their inability to construct a solid, consistent, economic message that directly tells the electorate they have been trying to help them, and could have done more, then these people are not leaders. They should be replaced with men and women who show they understand exactly what the voters want, need, and are hungry for. Fortunately, Tim Ryan has shown he is exactly that kind of person.
Tim Ryan is challenging Nancy Pelosi in an election for House minority leader on November 30. Ryan comes from the Youngstown, Ohio, area which gives him a very authentic experience in understanding the needs of blue collar workers in the “rust belt” so deeply discouraged by the Democratic platform in 2016. The level of frustration in these voters was so pronounced, the candidate for which they cast their vote needn’t provide much substance; Trump promised things he likely cannot deliver with a Republican congress, but he acknowledged their pain and that was more that the Democrats had done in years.
Tim Ryan has spent a lifetime in the hearts, minds, and homes of working and middle class voters, having gone to their schools, played on their football teams, and walked through their factories. While the rest of the country and the media attempts to understand the mindset of the industrial worker displaced by a changing global economy, Ryan has known them already and knows what makes them “tick”. In order for the Democratic Party to lead with vigor, the leadership cannot be disconnected from the heartland. Most working class voters displaced by closing factories do not want to be re-trained in information technology. Men and women whose livelihood and identity is to work and create with their hands feel they would be robbed of their dignity by being sold a “new future” sitting behind a desk working at a computer. They understand their factories may not reopen tomorrow, but the careers they have had are worth something to them. These men and women deserve a seat at the table with congressional leaders to discuss creating a new economy which will provide opportunities similar in their field rather than forcing them into an infrastructure they do not know.
The loss of the manufacturing industry in the “rust belt” of America is more than merely the brick and mortar factories, but also the financial compensation these men and women have been losing for nearly 40 years. The decline of union strength has contributed to the astronomical income gap between workers and those for whom they work, as the company ownership increasingly seeks profit over worker protection and loyalty. What we all must keep in mind is that when the American society seeks completely open and unrestrained free markets, the open market has no obligation to choose “America first”. Workers in America know the real economic value they provide to society, and they deserve to be paid a living wage that reflects their blood, sweat, and tears. No one will fight stronger or harder for the fairest wage for the workers than the workers themselves, which is why collective bargaining of unions is so important to the blue collar electorate.
Not only does Tim Ryan know and understand the dignity of the working class, he also sees this as the most crucial element of what was lost when the Democratic Party failed to focus on the working class Americans these past few elections. Ryan acknowledges Nancy Pelosi’s success as a Speaker, but he understands that the Party must shift toward a different message, fundamental to the core Democratic beliefs that they have an inherited duty to serve the people. Unfortunately, Pelosi’s image has been tarnished as that which has an inherited duty to serve the elite. Ryan brings a fresh face with an authenticity to his word and the Democratic message for 2018.
Should Tim Ryan become the new minority leader of the House, then both parties of the chamber would be led by men with the same name, giving quite possibly the only level of symbolic unity this nation can find at the moment. The “House of Ryan” – Paul and Tim – would prove to be (at first) a sheer battle for the working class voters. Paul Ryan would likely feel a need to prove to the blue collar voters who put their trust in Donald Trump that the Republican Party was a bet worth making, and that when Trump said “What do you have to lose?” that voters were not, in fact, losing what little they had left. Tim Ryan would need to show he understands the loss of 2016 was not that of an FBI director’s poorly-timed investigation, bad pollsters, or fake news on social media, but indeed a failure to resonate the Democrats’ economic platform to the working and middle class.
If House Democrats are wise, they will support Tim Ryan as their new minority leader. The “House of Ryan” will be a House divided, but the voters that pushed Donald Trump over the electoral college threshold leans more in favor of the message Tim can deliver, should he be given the opportunity.