Democrats Should Stop Talking and Start Listening

We didn’t get it, so voters smacked us upside on our heads to remind Democrats who is in charge.

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As I was watching the festivities on Capitol Hill yesterday, I was thinking about Nancy Pelosi’s request to filmmaker Steven Spielberg for help in rebranding the Democratic party. If Mr. Spielberg reads this post, please ask E.T. to phone House Democrats.

God knows we need the help. The best message that Democrats could come up with in 2010 was “vote for us because it’s better than not voting at all.” The transition ceremony yesterday suggests this was not a compelling message. [See a slide show of new faces in the Senate.]

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no Steven Spielberg, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, and I have been a Democratic campaign strategist and pollster for a long time, so I humbly offer a few suggestions:

Before Democrats start talking, we should try listening. That’s why, my mother always said, God gave us two ears and only one mouth.

For the last two years, Americans screamed “jobs, jobs, and jobs” while Democrats replied “healthcare, healthcare, and healthcare.” We didn’t get it, so voters smacked us upside on our heads to remind Democrats who is in charge.

And by the way, crossing our fingers and hoping that the unemployment rate drops to 8 percent by November 2012 is not good policy or a compelling message for Democrats. The last time I checked, Americans worried a lot more about the economy than they did the federal budget deficit, so we need an aggressive policy to create jobs more than we need fiscal austerity.

[See a slide show of 11 politicos to watch in 2011.]

And when we do talk, we shouldn’t talk down to people. Every once in a while the president says something that implies that he’s losing support because voters aren’t smart enough to understand what he’s doing. White voters without a college degree supported GOP House candidates by a 2 to 1 margin in November. Patronizing voters is not likely to win us many friends among the kind of voters that the Democratic Party should be looking out for.

I hate writing this about my own party, but my mother also used to say that a little tough love goes a long way.

  • See a slide show of new faces in the Senate.
  • See 2010: The Year in Cartoons.
  • Follow the money in Congress.