Democrats: Is there a better story other than ‘POTUS IS A BUFFOON’?

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Whether you like POTUS or not the only way to change things is at the voting booth.

I’m growing tired of my progressive friends espousing what they despise about our sitting president.

Yeah, he’s a womanizer, disrespectful of people different from himself, a pathologic liar and otherwise a dastardly dotard – not to mention his staff members.

But those are given.

In which case, why rehash all that day-in and day-out?

Democrats have no identity, let alone a story boiled down to an elevator speech.

It’s like arguing that cigarettes cause cancer. We all know that. Even the tobacco companies believe it. It’s printed on every cigarette pack. I won’t even get into the “it was the Russians” or “it was the electoral college” or any of the other red-herring issues. The Trump campaign was just a little smarter, but I digress.

Why waste time, words and energy?

Every anti-POTUS comment translates into a free ads for the sitting president that energize his base even more. POTUS stands for “Making America Great Again” but his roadshow casts that in a different light. Witness his recent whistle stop in Montana.

If you’re not in favor of making America great again, what do you believe?

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As of June 2018, this map shows there are 90 competitive districts (brown). You can rest assured that the Republicans are out in force.

Here it is 2018 – the midterm election cycle – and there is no coherent message from the Democratic Party.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is trying to reinvent herself; Elizabeth Warren is on the stump; I still get emails from Bernie. But it’s the same old anti-POTUS schtick.

If I’m wrong on this, please set me straight.

Sure there are candidates who have this figured out, like MJ Hegar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez running for congressional seats in Texas and Hawaii.

Based on Hegar’s video, I put down $5 and am following her congressional race. No facts and figures cluttering up the really great story.

The map on the right shows where the contested districts are located. If you live in a safe district, like me in Colorado’s 2nd CD, send your money and pound the pavement for candidates who may have a chance turn the tide. In the fall of 2017, I spent a lot of cyber-time helping get Doug Jones elected. As an analog action I had pizza delivered to volunteers in Huntsville.

There’s a lot a volunteer can do from afar.

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This is a 1980 Ronald Reagan “Make America Great Again” campaign button from my collection.

Republicans are really good at principled messaging. I think it was Ronald Reagan who originally coined “Make America Great Again” slogan and articulated what people feel in his famous “morning in America” ads.

Obama took a page out of the Reagan playbook, with his “Hope and Change” campaign. He was a very principled, retail politician. Unlike his Democratic predecessors he told stories rather than spouting facts and figures.

I picked up a book called “The Political Brain” by Drew Weston. The book shows how a different view of the mind and brain leads to a different way of talking with voters about issues that have tied the tongues of Democrats for much of forty years—such as abortion, guns, taxes, and race. You can’t change the structure of the brain. But you can change the way you appeal to it.

BUSH DUKAKIS DEBATE 1988

Michael Dukakis was unable to recover from his non-principled responses during a debate with George HW Bush.

In 1988, Mike Dukakis is asked during a debate if he would favor the death penalty for a rapist if he assaulted and murdered his wife, Kitty. His response wasn’t about how horrific the crime is, or how he would feel or his wife’s anguish, he responds with the data show that the death penalty isn’t a crime deterrent.

Sheesh.

Republicans have boiled down Democrats to “tax and spend liberals.” That’s a throwback to the 1932 New Deal and the 1965 Great Society. Democrats haven’t gone on the offensive and come up with a four-word stereotype for Republicans.

More recently, NeoCons call progressives “libtards”, a term that has largely gone with no response, but a term that galvanizes their base.

democrat republican stereotypes

Despite the stereotypes, Republicans have a better story.

When I engage in a conversation. I’ve thought about a principled response and say something like,  “I stand for strong family values – a safe home to raise kids; a strong neighborhood and excellent schools.” It’s usually the end of the conversation.

Restating this in a non-principled jargon-laced light, “I stand for marriage equality, affordable housing, community policing and a low student – teacher ratio.” This would cast me as pro-gay, handouts to poor people, anti-gun and pro-teacher unions.

Not that there’s anything wrong with these stances, but based on the Political Brain, voters will better relate to a candidate based on emotions rather than policy and data.

One of my hobbies is collecting political campaign memorabilia. Here are a few slogans I think are principled. I’ve surmised that candidates who include references to themselves have lost more times than those with visionary slogans. I’ll list them without election year or candidate:

  • Patriotism, Protection, and Prosperity
  • Peace and Prosperity
  • Making us Proud Again
  • Prosperity and Progress
  • Believe in America

Now what?

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Braceros, Traqueros and DACA Kids: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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Ronald Reagan signed immigration reform into law in 1986 that was sponsored by former Wyoming US Senator Alan Simpson. The law gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented people.

The US government and railroads welcomed immigrant workers from Mexico. How did they end up coming to the United States in the first place?

I heard a presentation by Lu Rocha at a workshop organized by my grad school Center on Domestic Violence at CU-Denver.

She gave a history of the Latino/a/x/ labor force in the United States that dates back to the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1800s and propping up the war efforts between 1942 until it’s repeal in 1964.

The H2A and H2B visa programs for agricultural and non-agricultural workers are remnants of the Bracero Program.

Immigration issues have been in the news lately.

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POTUS 45 repealed DACA put in place by President Obama in 2012 as a stop-gap measure to protect kids of undocumented residents.

The Reagan administration signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 which heightened border security but also granted amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. This was a bi-partisan effort led in the US Senate by Wyoming’s Al Simpson.

Red and Blue presidents and congresses failed to act on immigration reform until Obama in his lame duck term issued the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrives (DACA) executive order which cut some slack to kids brought to the US by their undocumented parents. It was a compassionate Band Aid.

POTUS 45 is trying to move the needle. He overturned DACA effective in six months, hoping Congress will get its act together on immigration reform.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

Immigration reform is a wedge issue for Republicans. They are against immigrants, generally, because of the supposed “taking of American jobs” rap. At the same time, American business is reliant on immigrant laborers who perform low-end work that regular Americans won’t do which is a throwback to the transcontinental railroad construction and World War II worker shortage.

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The Transcontinental Railroad was completed by laborers from Mexico.

Traqueros In 1881 Governor Luis Terrazas of Chihuahua drove a silver spike completing a rail line linking Mexico and United States which allowed immigrants transport to the United States and coincided with the West’s construction of the transcontinental railroad.

Mexicans were the dominant immigrant labor laying track in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite low wages compared to their native born coworkers and discrimination, immigrant Mexican laborers became permanent residents, not by law but by fact. By the time of the Great Depression, workers moved to the cities in search of other low-skill work.

Bracero Program

The US Department of Labor and the Immigration and Naturalization Service collaborated on the Bracero Program at the start of World War II. Braceros were allowed in to the US to provide help on farms during wartime.

Braceros The bracero program (Spanish for manual laborer) began in 1942 and operated as a joint program of the State Department, the Department of Labor, and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), as it was known then, in the Department of Justice.

Laborers from Mexico were promised better living conditions in camps, including housing, meals and toilet facilities. They eventually were paid a minimum wage of 30 cents / hour. The pact also stated that braceros supposedly would not be subjected to discrimination and exclusion from “white-only” areas.

During World War II, the bracero program intention was to fill the labor gap, particularly in agriculture. The program lasted 22 years and offered employment contracts to 5 million braceros in 24 U.S. states—becoming the largest foreign worker program in U.S. history.

The bracero program caused problems on both sides of the border with labor shortages in the northern states in Mexico and resulted in illegal immigrants who remained in the United States. Millions of Mexican Americans attribute their roots to their fathers and grandfathers who crossed the border as braceros.

DACA MASS WALKOUTDACA Circle back to DACA kids. They are the modern day traquero/a/x and bracero/a/x. They are people who arrived in the United States under the radar as children.

Like the braceros and traqueros, while they should have returned to Mexico, those families have remained – while looking over their shoulders – without documentation and became productive members of their communities.

The DACA kids ended up with high school and college educations, contribute to society in professional jobs, have families of their own with kids in local school systems. They pay taxes and volunteer in their communities.

When the Bracero Program was ended in 1964, the positive outcomes were better working conditions for farm workers thanks to advocacy by activists including Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta. There were no immigration laws that turned traqueros back to Mexico.

DACA was a short term fix when Obama acted because Congress didn’t. The immigration issue has come full circle from 1986.

Whether Congress and POTUS 45 get their acts together on immigration reform will be a defining moment for the Republicans like it was for Republicans and Ronald Reagan.

Until then – don’t ask, don’t tell.

simpson reagan signing“We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.” Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986 upon signing the Immigration Control and Reform Act.