Every four years voters hear that these midterm elections will be the most consequential in a generation. They usually greet the claim with healthy skepticism. But this time around it’s perfectly true.
For there to be an effective check on the regressive and anti-democratic impulses of the Trump administration, Democrats will need to take back at least one chamber of Congress, and ideally both.
Thanks to the dismal job President Trump and Republicans are doing, Democrats have reason to feel optimistic about our prospects this November. But we will need to offer American voters more than just anti-Trump anger. Democrats must present solutions to the millions of working families who feel left behind, and appeal to core values that are not reflected in the crude and bitter divisiveness displayed by Trump.
The Democratic case to voters should focus on three essential priorities: an economy that works for everyone, an emphasis on family, and a return to fundamental decency.
The stock market may be riding high, and unemployment may be low, but Democrats shouldn’t forget the painful lesson of 2016: The economy is not working for millions of Americans, many of whom live in the very parts of the country where Democrats need to compete.
“We’re going to win so much,” Trump promised Americans during his campaign, “you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning.” But after more than a year under Trump, only the very wealthy appear to be winning, thanks to a tax bill skewed in their favor. Struggling Americans in the Rust Belt and elsewhere remain forgotten.
The American economy is in the throes of a profound transformation. This upheaval was brought on by globalization, but it has been accelerated by automation, which is expected to have even broader implications for the American workforce. The automation revolution has only just begun. Low and middle-skill jobs that involve repetitive processes are no longer being moved to China, India or Mexico. They’re being done in America — by machines. If government does not come up with a smart plan to get ahead of the coming changes, the twin forces of globalization and automation will amplify the economic trends of the last quarter century, in which the rich got richer and everyone else fell further behind.
Democrats need to show the American people that they can prosper, not with empty promises, but with training for the high-skilled jobs of the future. We should equip the American workforce with a first-rate education, healthcare they can take from company to company, and the opportunity to find meaningful and well-paying work in towns all across America.
Economic hardships have put a strain on many families, but there are other challenges to family life that Democrats must address. Republicans held themselves up as the party of family values. But under Trump, they have forgotten what those values even are.
For parents, there is no higher priority than protecting our kids, and that means making sure that they are safe when they go to school, not exposed to a gunman with a military style assault weapon. Family values means providing access to affordable healthcare. You cannot take care of your child if you cannot take care of yourself. It means keeping families together instead of separating them through deportation, helping your kids afford college rather than allowing them to graduate with crushing debt, and helping aging parents enjoy a secure retirement.
Trump campaigned as the chaos candidate, and now he is the chaos president. With his Twitter insults, he appeals to prejudice and sows division. He has remade the Republican Party in his own deeply flawed image. Democrats must represent a return to decency, even normalcy.
It has long been said that America is a great country because America is a good country. If Democrats make it clear that we stand for what is good in America — economic ingenuity, values and decency — we will take back both the House and the Senate, and restore the vitality of our democracy.
This piece originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.