Not long ago, Senator Tim Kaine was the kind of Democrat who could win a district between the coasts. After all, he was pro-life and pro-traditional marriage, and he went out of his way to remind everyone that he was not a liberal. Listen to his radio ads from yesteryear.
In 2016, Senator Kaine became the other half of the Clinton-Kaine ticket. He bombed, to be polite. He did not deliver anything to the party. The left saw him as a phony, and the right did, too.
If you ask regular folks what Democrats want to do to the economy, not many will mention growth as the goal. (This is partly due to broad anti-business rhetoric that is directed toward Wall Street or multinationals but manages to scare off entrepreneurs and small businesses too.)
The Democratic economic goal is more likely to be described as about fairness, regulation, taxation or redistribution.
And if you ask folks how the Democrats plan to accomplish their economic goal(s), you often get a blank look. We are wonky people and usually have a ten point plan with multiple sub-points about jobs and the economy.
Complexity doesn’t communicate well and we seldom deliver an economic message that really sticks.
My 23 years in state, local and federal politics have convinced me that Democrats will always lose on economic messaging unless we have a simple and compelling growth strategy. If the Republicans pitch growth and we pitch anything else, we lose.
We can sometimes make it up on other issues, but why start behind on people’s key concern?
Question for Senator Kaine: Why do most people describe the Democrats’ message as about fairness, regulation, taxation, or redistribution?
Answer: Because it is about fairness, regulation, taxation, and redistribution.
This is what Senator Kaine, and others trying to recover from losing 1,000 seats in the Obama years, is missing.
Senator Kaine chose the wrong train when he dropped his conservative roots in exchange for identity politics. He has to live with that decision.
Yes, there is room for a Democrat who rejects the status quo. Sorry, but Senator Kaine is not the one!
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