What should the 2018 message be?

I got it– “We’re not Trump!”  That should get things 90% of the way there.  Seriously.  That said, I’ve read some interesting takes on the Democrats’ “message” in the last few weeks.  I truly think “Not Trump” really is a successful strategy, but sure, some other themes, too:

Margot Sanger-Katz on the Democrats pushing health care (as well they should):

After nearly a decade of playing defense on the issue, Democratic congressional candidates around the country are putting a health care message at the center of their campaigns. After the Republicans’ failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats have detected a newfound concern that the consumer protections established under the law might go away. And that fear has turned into a potent campaign theme.

More than a quarter of working-age adults have a pre-existing health condition, like asthma, diabetes or cancer, that might have locked them out of the insurance market in the years before Obamacare, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Surveys show that far more have a friend or family member with a serious medical problem. Because health problems tend to pile up as people age, the older voters who tend to turn out most reliably in midterm elections experience such worry disproportionately.

“I completely can see why they’re excited to be able to talk about this issue again,” said Mollyann Brodie, a senior vice president at Kaiser, who runs the group’s public opinion polling. The foundation’s most recent survey, released last week, found that pre-existing conditions had become the most important health care concern among voters, ranked the most important campaign issue for many of them over all. “I agree with the strategy, based on our polling and everyone else’s polling. It’s a time when it is going to work.”

It’s not just red-state Democratic senators who are focusing on pre-existing conditions. The issue is coming up in House races across the country. Tyler Law, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, ticked off districts — in Arkansas, Washington, New Jersey — where it’s a major campaign theme. In markets with close races, the committee is running its own advertisements on health care.

The Democratic mantra for this election should basically be “Republicans want to take away health care for people with pre-existing conditions.”  Of course it is more complicated than that, but this has the advantage of actually being mostly truthful and personally potent for millions and millions.

In an idea near-and-dear to my own research, Catherine Rampell says, let’s make it about the kids:

Democrats have been casting about for a winning theme this November. Here’s one suggestion: Kids.

After all, despite once declaring themselves the party of family values, Republican politicians have more recently ceded this territory. The GOP is now the party of state-sanctioned child abuse, of taking health care away from poor children, of leaving young immigrant “dreamers” in legal limbo.

It is GOP policy, and GOP policy alone, that has ripped thousands of immigrant children from their parents and locked them in cages, where they cannot be held or comforted when they cry…

There is a theme here. Trump and his partisans care mostly about indulging constituencies of the past.

The tools that normalized Japanese American imprisonment during World War II are being deployed against asylum-seeking immigrants today. 

Which gives Democrats an opening to fight for the future. Starting with proposals focused on children.

And I don’t mean only the obvious proposals like “don’t rip babies from their mothers’ breasts.” There are lots of popular, ambitious ideas that could improve children’s well-being — and pay dividends in an economy that requires turning today’s children into tomorrow’s healthy, productive, taxpaying adults.

Such proposals include expanding access to high-quality early-childhood education, a cost-effective strategyfor reducing future criminal-justice system costs and other social spending.

Or offering parents paid leave, which is supposedly a priority of the Trump administration, though aside from a recent Senate hearing, still hasn’t gotten much traction.

Or expanding parents’ access to Medicaid, which has been shown to improve health outcomes for their children.

These are all objectives that are not only important to the women and millennials who increasingly dominate the Democratic base. Policies such as paid family leave and early-childhood education have broad bipartisan appeal, too.

Because, hey, it’s not exactly controversial to be pro-child.

And Steve Israel argues that we need to just let candidates work it out bottom-up:

But my fellow Democrats have it wrong that they need a national-message template in the first place. Past elections have shown that the most effective messaging is local and specific to each district…

At one point, we sent a survey to every House Democrat, asking for suggestions for a succinct national message. The responses included: “Make It in America”; “Rebuild the Middle Class”; “When Women Succeed America Succeeds”; and various slogans and themes emphasizing jobs, health care, campaign-finance reform, free college tuition, equality, opportunity, security, and, in one case, access to contraception. (After all that, we came up with: “A Stronger America: A New American Security Agenda.” It didn’t take.)

It’s difficult to get all Democrats on a single coherent message, because of the precise problem we identified with our survey: There’s just too much ground to cover. Republicans don’t have these same issues. Meetings of the Republican conference generally offer all the brilliant diversity of its members’ Brooks Brothers ties. Aside from a few hand-wringing moderates, GOP members of Congress are bound in ideological lockstep. They’re parroting the White House—and being parroted by Fox News—on taxes and spending, terror and immigration, and any other hot-button issue that can frighten voters, including who uses which bathrooms. It’s easy to impose message discipline on a group like this: When you look alike and think alike, you’ll inevitably sound alike, too.

This isn’t what Democrats should aspire to. Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill was correct in saying that “all politics is local,” and nothing in politics is more local than message. Democrats have won all the progressive seats they can win. The path to the majority is taking those remaining districts that are evenly divided or leaning Republican, and whose voters aren’t motivated to turn out over the prospect of impeaching the president or abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

It seems so obvious, but it’s lost on so many: A message that resonates in downtown Brooklyn, New York, could backfire in Brooklyn, Iowa—which happens to be located in a Republican district that’s now highly competitive. Midterm elections, which are fought in dozens of ideologically diverse media markets, should be thought of like tuning your car radio on the interstate. You’ll pick up that great country-and-western station in some markets, National Public Radio in others.

Yep, I’m all on board for that, too.  Though, I’d say mostly go with “Not Trump” and “Republicans really will take essential health care protections away from you and/or your loved ones.”

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