By Stephen T. Banko III
I always chuckle when I hear the talking heads in the media lament the early start to the presidential primary season. The lament comes immediately after every candidate of a certain party gets elected and bombarded with the question of “are you running for president?”
What I lament is not so much the early bolt out of the gate as the image of the clown car primary that produced President Trump. That fiasco introduced us to the politics of personal destruction and the effectiveness of well-told deceptions as a tactic but it offered little to the educated voter in terms of policy. Part of that is the responsibility of the hopelessly inept candidate who couldn’t or wouldn’t get into the political slime with the eventual winner. The major portion of the blame, however, should be reserved for a Republican Party that did nothing to stop the lunacy.
Pretty soon, the Democrats have their shot at civility and professional campaigning but it wouldn’t take much to see a Clown Car II. That self-destructive scenario can be avoided with a simple step. The Democratic Party needs to step up.
Stepping up would involve an immediate summit of Democratic leaders to develop a pre-primary platform of issues that must be addressed in the debates and primaries. When I was old enough to ask my father why he was a Democrat, I had an idea of what that meant. I am not so sure the succeeding generations of Democrats have the same template to work from. Thus, the party needs to provide it. It must develop core issues that all the candidates must subscribe to. Those core issues include but are not limited to:
• Universal access to health care;
• A living minimum wage;
• An aggressive approach to environmental issues;
• Sane immigration policies that provide a pathway to citizenship;
• Tax policies that regenerate a viable middle class and reduce the deficit;
• Educational approaches that actually prepare students for jobs that are in need to include blue collar jobs;
• Restoration of oversight of big banks to prevent another recession;
• Stop paying lip service to the treatment of America’s veterans and end the protracted delays in processing benefit claims;
• Recognition of women’s rights in the workplace to include pay parity.
If the party sits silently on the sidelines with a multitude of candidates left to their own devices about what they want to debate, it is not unthinkable that we’ll see a rerun of the rhetorical riots that characterized the 2016 Republican debates. That doesn’t work for the Democratic candidates, for the country that deserves to hear real policy proposals to real problems, or the voters.
Stephen T. Banko III spent 30 years in speechwriting and press relations in Democratic campaigns, ranging from a presidential primary to town council races.