5 things Dems must do this year to win in 2018
© Greg Nash

The actions Democrats take now will determine how well the party does in 2018 and beyond. It's time right now to set the tone for the next four years.

The 115th Congress convened Tuesday. Next week on Jan. 15, the Democratic House leadership will sponsor a national day of action against GOP attempts to destroy Social Security and Medicare. Democrats will choose a new party chair at the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which starts on Feb. 23. Democrats will also have the chance to take advantage of the publicity generated by the Women's March the day after the inauguration and during the confirmation hearings for Trump Cabinet nominees.

Here are five things Democrats must do to beat Republicans.

1. Unite the Democratic Party.

Democrats have lined up in a circular firing squad since Election Day. Many Democrats blame Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGun control: Campaigning vs. legislating Booker defends middle-ground health care approach: 'We're going to fight to get there' Sunday shows preview: Democratic candidates make the rounds after debate MORE (I-Vt.), who ran in the Democratic presidential primary, for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE's victory and eventual Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDershowitz: 'Too many politicians are being subject to criminal prosecution' The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Democrats spar over electoral appeal of 'Medicare for All' MORE's defeat.


For example, Right after the election, I posted a plea for Democrats to unite and the first response was from a Sanders supporter who wrote "F--- the corporate Democrats."

Sadly, the race to choose the next DNC chair has become a showdown between the Sanders wing of the party and Clinton supporters instead of a choice between two well-qualified candidates, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.

This internal party bitterness is of course exactly what Trump wants, so we're playing right into the hands of the president-elect and the GOP congressional leadership.

Like it or not, the Clinton supporters and the Sanders followers need each other to beat Republicans. The two wings of the Democratic Party have a lot more in common with each other than they do with Trump. So it's time to end the recriminations and to find common ground. Democrats need both wings to fly.

2. Divide the GOP.

There are clear divisions within the GOP on big issues like Russian influence, ObamaCare and international trade. Democrats need to exploit those divisions.

Most GOP members of Congress favor international trade agreements, while the new president opposes them. Prominent GOP senators like John McCainJohn Sidney McCain The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Biden's debate performance renews questions of health At debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR MORE (Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Graham: US should consider strike on Iranian oil refineries after attack on Saudi Arabia MORE (S.C.) want to investigate Russian interference in the 2016, which Trump has dismissed out of hand. Conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus want to repeal ObamaCare immediately, while the GOP congressional leadership wants to phase out the program over two or three years.

Strong opposition to Republican initiatives gives Democrats the opportunity to block bad policy and to put the GOP on the defensive. It is a lot more productive for Democrats to fight against Republicans than it is to fight among themselves.

3. Remember that it's still the economy, stupid.

Clinton lost the presidency because of her failure to maximize support from people who were left behind by the economic recovery. These voters included blacks, Latinos and white voters without a college education. The claims of economic recovery from Clinton and President Obama rang hollow for these people, especially residents of the Rust Belt.

The national Election Day exit poll indicated that most voters (62 percent) felt the economy was still in bad shape. These economically disillusioned voters supported Trump over Clinton two-to-one (62 percent to 31 percent). White voters without a college education also were strong Trump supporters (67 percent to 28 percent).

Trump's fierce opposition to international trade agreements channeled economic anxiety into the Republican column. Voters who thought international trade was bad for the U.S. were twice as likely to vote for Trump (65 percent) than for Clinton (31 percent).

Economic anxieties hit Clinton even harder in the industrial Midwestern states, which gave Trump his majority in the Electoral College.

Most Ohio voters (65 percent) felt the economy was in bad shape and they took out their anger on Clinton. There, voters unhappy with the economy supported Trump over Clinton, 71 percent to 25 percent. A large plurality of voters in the Buckeye State felt that international trade took away American jobs and these voters went for Trump bigly, 69 percent to 28 percent.

Despite the GOP nominee's open hostility to non-white Americans, minority turnout was down slightly in Ohio from what it was in 2012. Trump also did better with minority voters in Ohio than former GOP nominee Mitt Romney did in 2012.

4. Stop the name-calling.

To win at the state and national level, Democrats need to win back some of the voters who supported Trump. Calling Trump voters deplorable, racist or stupid isn't a great way of winning them back.

Some of the voters who supported Trump are racists, but not most of them. They voted for a black presidential candidate twice before they deserted the white Democratic candidate in 2016. Voters who didn't have a college education went for Trump because they don't have much hope to get ahead without a college education in today's high-tech economy.

5. Pick your battles.

The Washington Post recently reported that Senate Democrats have decided to actively oppose eight of the Cabinet level officials nominated by Trump. I could make a good case that one of the nominees should be ratified, but it would be better to target one or two of the nominees.

My targets would be secretary of Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin and the nominee for secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.

State and Treasury are the two most important Cabinet positions. Tillerson is the CEO of Exxon Mobil who, like the new president, has big economic interests in Russia.

Mnuchin is the poster boy for Trump's failed commitment to working families.

He is one of 3 Goldman Sachs executives along with Gary Cohn (Director, National Economic Council) and Stephen Bannon (Chief Strategist in the White House) who will have important positions in the new administration. Mnuchin was known as the “foreclosure king” when he was the CEO of OneWest Bank in California. His bank received almost a billion dollars in bank bailout money from the federal government. The bailout didn’t stop him from foreclosing on 36,000 homes.

Both Tillerson and Mnuchin dramatize Trump's failure to live up to the commitment to economic populism that he made in the campaign.

We may not be able to stop any of these nominations with GOP control in control of Senate. But we can fight to make a point and position the party for 2018 and 2020.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. (He is not related in any way to the alt-right leader and Trump adviser Stephen Bannon.) Campaigns and Elections magazine called him a "mover and shaker" in the political consulting industry. He hosts and contributes regularly to the nationally syndicated progressive talk show, "The Leslie Marshall Show." Bannon is also a political analyst for CLTV, the cable news station of the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV. He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, the social media network for politics. Contact him at 202-320-4182 or brad@bannoncr.com.

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