As Hillary Clinton, continues the book tour for her latest memoir, “What Happened”, Democrats are on a manic and self indulgent quest to explain their recent losses but all of their explanations are centered on the personal failings of Hillary Clinton. While Clinton, may have made errors, I believe that the party should look beyond Hillary for explanations of its demise. The classic trope against Democrats is that they are socialists, hellbent on enabling the lazy with the promise of free stuff. It is this reputation of the Democrats as soviet Santa’s that has damaged their appeal. Democrats strangely play into this idea by using language like “free healthcare” or “free college” which from a policy standpoint is legislative gibberish. Democrats have fallen into the trap of framing their own issues with the verbiage of the right wing in opposition to them. Using the term free in reference to any Democratic policy is dishonest when it is done by Republicans but it is incomprehensibly foolish when Democrats borrow the terms.
Using the term free sounds impractical and unbelievable. It smacks of a profligate and unsustainable form of pandering that is doomed to failure. It is also not representative of the true nuance that makes democratic policies effective and workable. Democrats don’t want to give anyone Free Stuff. Democrats have simply recognized that most Americans spend nearly one-third of their income on taxes. Democrats believe that if Americans are going to pay such a large portion of their individual income to the government, they should actually get something for their money. The Republicans offer a competing philosophy which holds that Americans should only expect a strong national defense from their government. Democrats should expose this notion as a fools bargain. One third of your individual income is outrageously excessive to simply maintain an army that we hope we never use. The GOP’s tendency to deride those who demand quality services from the government they finance is an exposed Achilles heel. It turns the concept of government itself into a political Ponzi-scheme. Its a fraudulent philosophy that demands that citizens pay membership fees to our literal country club without expecting any benefits. Democrats, on the other-hand believe that America is like Costco and taxpayers are simply paying a membership fee that gives them access to services purchased in bulk. For close to a third of your income, you should expect a strong national defense, 21st century infrastructure like hyper-loops and nationwide internet, roads and bridges for self driving cars, smaller-high quality schools with well paid teachers and healthcare. Democrats simply believe that Americans pay so much in taxes that their children should not need to go into massive debt to attend public universities. None of this is free and no one, including Democrats should use language suggesting that it should be free. Democrats must stop falling into the trap of affirming these notions.
Democrats should also combat the notion that they support big government handouts to those in our society that are allergic to hard work. This is a characterization of social safety nets from Republicans who often feel entitled to public aide in their own hour of need but bristle at the obligation to help others in the same fashion. However, this mischaracterization is enabled by a Democratic party that fails to explain why social safety nets are a justifiable service of the government. Democrats believe in social safety nets because Americans pay their taxes, in good times and in bad times. The government should likewise support it’s citizens when they fall on hard-times. If a family suffers from a downturn in the economy, their children should not stop receiving meals at schools. Over an individual’s lifetime, he or she will pay into the community’s coffers, often for services they will never use. For instance, Bostonians will pay taxes that will benefit Houstonians in the aftermath of a disaster. The meager welfare we offer, is a return on taxes paid over a life-time if an individual finds themselves in need. It is not simply a handout. Social Security is likewise a savings of personal wages. And after a life-time of paying the taxes that fought our wars, financed our infrastructure, and paid for public schools, American youth can and should provide the elderly with healthcare. The Democratic Party is not offering anything for free. Democrats simply believe that you should actually get something out of the taxes you pay. The alternative Republican philosophy, that citizens should not ask anything of their government, makes the American Taxpayer a sucker.