Democrats Need a Grand Plan

Robert Crohan/PantherNow

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

Last year, I wrote about why I expected a mammoth blue wave, and offered a case for thinking optimistically about the Democrats’ fortunes for the coming decade.

But almost a year after the Biden/Harris triumph, that optimism is starting to fade.

There are a lot of thoughts and ideas I could get out, but boiled down to a summary, I fear that unless Democrats crank out promised priorities at the same rate Republicans are cranking out restrictive policies in states they control, the public will turn on them, subtly if not outwardly. The Black voters who were promised a helping hand and instead have gotten a sore thumb may feel uninspired to turn out, all while an increasingly authoritarian GOP scoops up disillusioned Latinos and working-class Whites.

Already, Republicans are redistricting states to an unfair degree, and managed to pull off multiple statewide wins in dark blue Virginia for the first time in around a decade. They came within a hair of flipping the governorship in New Jersey, which is even bluer. 

With this relentless headache, it is long past time for the population’s preferred party to abandon failed assumptions of elections past and formulate a new plan to truly win back broad excitement and approval. The Biden band-aid needs to be pulled off, and the populist ointment applied.

Debates are raging as to what, exactly, constitutes a perfect plan, but I see some core elements.

Firstly, the Democrats must recognize and promote their newfound operation: defending democracy from Trump’s GOP. In a time when people still believe the “big lie,” and authoritarianism grows globally, Democrats must reaffirm our most cherished idea and unpack the GOP’s arguments defending its antidemocratic practices, with legitimate proof.

We as South Floridians know too well the cost of autocratic socialism, and at the same time expect and need more from elected officials we worked hard to bring into office. The Democrats bungled their chances to stand firmly with the Cuban and Venezuelan people, a mistake that cannot be repeated.

2020 further proved that Democrats are gaining strength across the Sun Belt. However, Latinos turning towards the GOP kept Florida and Texas from voting blue. In fact, Florida now has more registered Republicans than Democrats. It is imperative that Democrats abandon a monolithic Hispanic outreach that relies exclusively on talk of immigration and Trump’s rhetoric. As a majority-Hispanic university, FIU understands that our Hispanic communities have an incredibly varied political outlook that mostly reflects bread-and-butter concerns.

When the GOP opposes economic relief bills, attacks lifesaving insurance, and prevents wage hikes, Democrats must take advantage of that gift to their morale. This may help them win Senate seats in red states.

And speaking of bread-and-butter issues, the infrastructure bill finally passed, but the months-long, once-healthy debates over Build Back Better have entered dangerous territory. If the agenda collapses, the GOP will put all the blame, only somewhat deserved, on the Democrats. Moderate and progressive members of Congress must take a look at the numbers reflecting what voters were anticipating when they elected a Democratic trifecta, and act accordingly. This will inevitably require one side to accept that something getting passed is better than nothing.

Going further, my fellow writer Fernando has sounded the alarm about Democrats’ future for years, and has shared his hope that the party abandons establishment rhetoric and candidates in favor of new, populist faces. Populism, in this sense, requires politicians embracing everyday people’s concerns, front-and-center, in the face of perceived oligarchy or government overreach- in this case, from the GOP.

The American people continually support key Democratic initiatives, which the party must embrace in order to earn a broad, coast-to-coast base of enthusiastic support, in rebuttal to the GOP’s insistence on undermining the democratic process in order to shore up maximum power for a less popular agenda. However, those who have voted red must be approached with an open ear, not a pointing finger. I understand concerns about overreach considering the 2010 and 2014 wipeouts, but in these partisan times, energizing the base and engaging infrequent voters is key.

Just look at Florida. After the 2018 Republican victories, Democrats were widely expected to seize popular initiatives like the expansion of voting rights, marijuana legalization, and a $15 minimum wage. Instead, the latter passed overwhelmingly with no attention from the FDP.

Fernando and I both agree that Democrats must abandon unpopular rhetoric, including terms like “Latinx.” And they must understand that elections are a year-round investment. When the American people are strangled by more issues now than since the turn of the century, and with politics so normalized, grassroots relationship-building is crucial to a flourishing movement that truly serves. 

My personal opinion is that if President Biden cannot improve his approval rating or rescue the remaining Americans in Afghanistan, the 2024 Democratic nominee absolutely must be someone like Stacey Abrams or Senator Raphael Warnock (GA). They are progressive, but not too left-wing, likeable and humble, know how to flip swing states, are exciting and captivating, have no baggage, are committed to racial justice, and are popular among independents and suburbanites that are crucial for Democrats.

And to project maturity, Democrats cannot deflect blame for their administration’s abhorrent failures in the Afghanistan withdrawal, rising inflation, or border security. They must own it, and demonstrate a true commitment to correcting the wrongs without brushing these issues under the carpet.

I have serious concerns about American democracy over the next few years. If Democrats don’t want the 2020s to be yet another decade of underperformance, the work for a long-term strategy must be done immediately and with the utmost urgency. Their time to shine is now.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community

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