I am going to take a slight break from reading/tweeting about the healthcare bill to talk about the Democratic theme for the mid-term elections in 2018. I was both surprised and disappointed to see the message.
Drum roll please…
“A Better Deal”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced this today in this New York Times Op Ed piece..
First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re…www.nytimes.com
It is largely an economic message with focus on “Raising wages”, “decreasing daily expenses”, and giving “workers the tools they need for the 21st Century”. Sounds like a great plan…right? However someone already ran on an economic platform….and pssst he is already the President of The United States. Like or not, “Make America Great Again” was a powerful economic message that resonated with voters.
Putting on my social work/change maker hat on, I see a major flaw with “A Better Deal”. If the intention is to target Trump voters who were sort of neutral about Hillary, this was not the way to go. Trying to get individuals, groups, and communities to change is tricky business. One thing people don’t like is being told what to think. When I heard the title of “A Better Deal” I thought… better for who??
“But we already elected the guy who wrote “The Art of Deal’.”
“You are not going to offer me a better deal than Trump, we gave you eight years”
The Trump voter on the fence will not listen to this. I don’t claim to be a political genius but I know a bit about what it takes to change someones mind. So what should be the mid-term election message? There needs to be a more listening stance. In continuing to think about the 2016 Democratic “autopsy”, one thing is for sure… people did not feel like The Democratic Party was listening. This was especially true of the economic situation.
It is too soon call the Trump economic message a failure. Yes there is discrepancies about where the tax breaks will go but Trump supporters are not willing to hear that yet. My suspicion is the Trump economic message will begin to unravel. The reality of the proposed tax breaks in the healthcare bill will set in. Once the tax plan is announced, one could hope that Trump supporters will see through the focus on corporate tax relief.
So my long answer to what the mid-term message should be is one of listening, hearing, and reaching out. “A Better Deal” says “you don’t know what’s better, I do”. As a therapist we often do this without realizing. We often try to fix problems and try to repair what is “wrong”. Typically a more collaborative problem solving stance is more effective. From the more macro social work perspective, we don’t go into a group or community and tell people what to need.
Perhaps this is way we need more social workers in office. Last month The Congressional Research Institute For Social Work And Policy held it’s first “Political Bootcamp”. It was inspiring to follow this on social media and to think about how we can use our skills to make an impact. Our listening skills are perhaps what Democrats need. Democrats also need to be reminded of its’ focus on social justice and I hope this does not get lost either.
What we need right now is more listening and questioning. Not demands that I can do this better. The challenge is come along side Trump supporters, listening to their concerns, but also asking them to think about how those policies actually help them. So my plan would be “A Better Ear”. It’s time for Democrats to listen to what they missed and then create a compelling case for how we can do it “Better”.