At a rally in support of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in Stockbridge, Georgia on October 7, 2018, former U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder said,
“It is time for us as Democrats to be as tough as they [Republicans] are, to be as dedicated as they are; to be as committed as they are.
Michelle says when they go low, we go high. No, when they go low, we kick them.”
Kudos to Holder for urging Democrats to work harder. Words of caution and concern to Holder for asking us to take the low road.
It may be true that in recent years the Democrats have been out-hustled by the Republicans. In the 2016 presidential race, apathy contributed to the Democrats’ defeat as much as anything. But when Eric Holder takes away the high ground from the Democrats and says that “we kick them,” he gives Republicans a line that they can run with, similar to Hillary’s “basket of deplorables.” Furthermore, he distracts Democrats from the direction in which they must move by only focusing on the intensity of the movement.
It’s somewhat similar to praising the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini for making the trains run on time, without any regard as to where they were going (often to war). If Democrats use dirty tactics, it is of little consequence what values they purport to hold.
It’s not just a question of “just makes right” for the Democrats. While most of us who are active progressives are more likely to get a good night’s sleep after working in an above-board fashion, there is even more than that to consider.
Democrats need to find new ways to distance themselves from Republicans. What they must do to distance themselves from Republicans needs to be:
- Satisfactory to the Democratic base.
- Meaningful to independents and others who infrequently vote for Democrats and whose votes are essential for Democratic wins.
- Most importantly, what Democrats do differently has to be visible to independents and other infrequent Democratic voters.
For today, here’s one strategy that Democrats can take. Focus on voters and not dollars.
There are two obnoxious ways in which Democrats seek money for their campaigns. First is groveling for big money, often from sources that are “dark.” Second is by being like the out-of-town uncle at the Thanksgiving table who is constantly begging everyone else to give him money.
Yes, money is needed for campaigns, if even just to spread the message that Democrats are not acting like Republicans when it comes to money. Ideally, this seed money would be available through public financing, but we’re not there yet.
Democrats need to make the point that their policies are designed to protect consumers, workers and businesses that operate in an ethical fashion. They also advocate strengthening the safety net so those who are experiencing mis-fortune or are simply not skilled enough to function in today’s economy have the means to have a livable income.
Democrats need to advocate for those who live as close to honest and hard-working lives as possible and who value the common good as well as individual liberties.
Jettison the money crap; it’s not the way that the grass-roots base of the Democratic Party lives its lives. We have no control over whether the Republicans go low or high, although I wouldn’t go to Vegas to put money on Republican ethics. But Democrats need to go high. Money may or may not be the root of all evil, but it makes sense that the first place for Democrats to “go high” is to totally reform their relationship to money. To paraphrase the “Raging Cajun,” James Carville, “It’s the voters, stupid!”