Missouri Democrats, I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Reform.
Actually, there are other words that you need to hear. Disgraced. Embarrassed. Dysfunctional. These are all words – along with many others – that describe the state of your party in Missouri right now. The voters don’t like you. And you’re insane if you think business-as-usual will change your prospects. “Democrat” is a tarnished brand.
But there’s good news. There is something the party can do to return to respectability and it won’t take a major change in strategy or philosophy. It requires you to tap into your progressive roots. You need to invest in what many Missourians hunger for – significant changes in our political ways of life. If you want to turn your fortunes around, the Democratic party has to become the party of reform.
Campaigns are seen as grotesquely greedy wars over money. Legislators are viewed as bought-and-paid-for playthings of powerful lobbies. Elections in often gerrymandered monstrosities are viewed as frustrating farces with predetermined winners. Ethical government is seen as a contradiction in terms.
Who’s going to do anything about it? Certainly not the GOP. They’re in the driver’s seat. Why do they want to disrupt the status quo? But for Democrats in this state, the status quo is the enemy. If you want Missourians to think you’re relevant again, you’re going to need to tap into the voters frustration in our increasingly broken political system. They need to see you as the party that’s going to seriously do something about it.
Back in the 1990s Ross Perot tapped into the frustration that people had with our political status quo and the desire that people had for reform. He found some success. And if people hungered for reform in the 1990s, imagine how hungry they are right now!
Need more convincing? Studies show that political reform is particularly appealing to younger voters. They voice the most frustration in a system that seems increasingly closed to them and more open to those with money and powerful connections. They yearn for a political process that is fair – a system where one’s political worth is not tied to their net worth. They want a political environment with some ethical standards.
Become the party that all voters – both young and old – can embrace as the leading advocate for reform and suddenly the future of the Democratic party in this state isn’t so gloomy.
Just one word. Are you listening? Reform.