A Democratic Party strategic plan for the next half-century

Vince Rizzo
10 min readSep 22, 2020

Throughout the exercise, fingerpointing was the order of the day.

the Senate Democrats and most everyone else thought they had an insurance policy on the Scalia vacancy. The assumption was that Hillary Clinton would be elected. Clinton, who did, after all, win the popular vote by several million votes, might even have helped carry in a Democratic Senate. And then she could have renominated Garland, or someone younger and more liberal.

As it sorted out, the Democrats were cautious, overconfident and misinformed about the mood of the country. They lost in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri and North Carolina, winding up still in the minority.

For those who want to blame the Republicans for their blatant use of political power, just what did you expect? Nothing in the past quarter-century of American politics would have indicated otherwise. And for those who wish to blame the Democrats and Barack Obama for their timidity and naivete, they forget that the Dems lost a court suit and fought a good fight for Garland — -while thinking ahead and relying on the next election to settle the matter. Some more progressive Democrats even felt that a Clinton victory would free her to nominate someone younger, more liberal, and a woman instead of the 62-year-old moderate. These were all calculations made at the time that proved moot with the electoral college defeat of Clinton. Of course, Jim Comey, the Russians, and voter complacency also had a hand in the outcome — -as I said earlier, instructive.

if only the tiger would change his spots

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president. — Mitch McTurtle

Before duly elected president Barack Obama warmed his seat behind the Resolute Desk, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate provided proof of his party’s governing policy. His formula for success as evidenced in the above quote demonstrated an intransigence worthy of disdain. The truth is that what we are seeing now is the culmination of McConnell’s infamous statement. Republicans refused to do their jobs, they had decided not to govern., They would be the disloyal opposition. We now know that McConnell’s intent failed, Obama won a second term going away. Republicans, however, refused to engage, and it is remarkable what Obama was able to accomplish during his two terms. Despite a divided government, (Obama and the Democrats held the Senate until 2015 while Republicans maintained control of the House) The administration made some significant gains===The Affordable Health Care Act, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Paris Accords were important and accomplished with little or no help from the other side of the aisle. While the House was held by Republicans throughout the Obama presidency, the loss of the Senate in 2015 would prove to be the undoing of the Garland nomination.

Getting even for the past 4 years would feel good, but it is not a great strategy. What some perceive as the dissolution of the Republican Party is due to their “getting even” for being out of power in the Senate and presidency for eight years. We should allow them to “stay the course.” The added incentive is the further distillation of their base. The “big tent” movement of George Bush’s party has been abandoned as the Republican base has become more white, more wealthy, and racist. Persistence and focus are the winning formulae for Democrats. Job one is to win back the presidency in November by a wide margin. Lest we forget, power is the coin of the realm. While we have a long way to go before we steady this listing ship of state, it all begins with gaining the power to change things for the better and not following the Republicans down the rabbit hole.

The battle for the Scalia and Ginsburg seats was always going to be determined in the end by the party with control of the Senate. While the nomination choice rests with the president, the Senate has the power of consent. Given the partisan nature of our politics, there is little question Republicans would take any other tack than the one they have chosen. The task of the Democratic leadership is to make them pay for their choices. Maximum pressure in our messaging should be focused on those voters whose ox is being gored here — -women, minorities, the fair-minded, and progressives. I add in the last because it is their passion and support that is crucial to the Biden-Harris effort. They also, in my opinion, old the better ideas for the future. Political jujitsu would suggest that our goals should be based upon the near certainty that Republicans cannot help but act like themselves. Accepting the corollary, that part of the toll we pay is another Supreme Court conservative justice, the payment we exact in exchange should be strategic, long term, and hefty.

I offer the following goals as starters for Democratic leaders to consider as we look beyond the anticipated appointment with the real hopes that Biden-Harris prevail in November. To fight old battles will be a waste of time for them, They need to strategize a new future for the party with goals that can be laid out during the next four years:

Goal #1

The first goal entails working to strengthen the institutions of government that proved so vulnerable to a populist-fascist movement. First on that list would be the courts. While a bitter battle in the present case will undoubtedly impassion Democratic voters, it will not change many minds. In fact, it will certainly energize Trump’s base and increase the turnout in battleground states. Our goal should be to make Republicans pay at the polls:

With 23 Senate seats held by Republicans on the ballot this fall, the fight over replacing Justice Ginsburg, centered in Washington, will sprawl across the country from Maine, where Senator Susan Collins, a moderate, is fighting for her political life; to South Carolina, where the Judiciary Committee chairman, Senator Lindsey Graham, is facing a tighter than expected race; and to Arizona, where the results of a special election between Mark Kelly, a Democrat, and Senator Martha McSally on Nov. 3 could tilt the balance of the Senate even before 2021.

The longer-term goal of taking over both houses of Congress and the presidency would be a worthy return. A strategic plan would focus not just on the Republican Senators who are in danger this cycle. The 2022 election cycle is rife with prospects. A three-fifths majority in the senate is achievable and Joe Biden once elected should make shepherding legislation through the Congress that will maximize voter desire for progress. Likely options would include infrastructure (jobs) and health care. Both are necessary planks in any recovery and would be popular among Biden’s electoral base. Aside from COVID, which will rightly be entrusted to scientists and medical professionals, this type of legislation would appeal to the middle class, rural areas, and major constituencies in both parties. Republicans are locked into unfavorable positions on these issues as part of Trump’s legacy. He left them parting gifts without batteries.

In the 2022 cycle, there will be 34 seats up for grabs, 22 of which are Republican. Of the 12 Democratic incumbents, most seem solid. On the Republican side, Senators Rubio, Burr, McSally (if she were to defeat Mark Kelly for the McCain seat), Ron Johnson, and Kelly Loeffler, for starters, may be vulnerable. Chuck Grassley will be 89 years old if he decides to run. A generational change in the power structure of Congress like the one achieved during FDR’s tenure is possible. From the 73rd Congress (1933–34) to the present 116th Congress, Democrats have held majority positions in the Senate 30 times to 15 for Republicans. In the House, the Democratic lead is even greater, 32 to 12. Achieving goal #1 will allow Democrats to regain the advantages held through the past century because of policies that resonate with most voters.

Goal #2

I am not a fan of a court-packing strategy as a way to reestablish a court equilibrium. First, it is a difficult policy to craft and second, it opens the party to charges of overreach (like FDR) and can weaken the strategy in goal #1. Post Biden, the Democratic Party will take on a new look — -a look that is likely unattainable for Republicans. The party will move to the left and progressives will take over the levers of power — a good thing. The party will also continue to look more like the population as we the white majority rule inexorably gives way over time to minorities, women, and younger participants — another good thing. These demographic changes are already ongoing and run counter to current Republican policies. Developing candidates that will lead the party into this new future is a critical responsibility for Joe Biden. His cabinet must be a crucible for developing talent. Considering the talent that was on display during the recent primary, Biden can create the “field” for the next few election cycles. Corey Booker, Stacey Abrams, Beto O’Rourke, and others have demonstrated the strength of the talent available within the party. AOC is a star unlike anyone in the GOP fold (think a younger and less frumpy Bernie.) Her contributions will come in the form of ideas and messaging. This new cadre should be showcased in the next administration. Finding new talent should also be extended to state and local offices, and this should be communicated to the next chair of the DNC (I like Abrams here). Because Trump’s reliance on corruption and incompetence, the GOP has eaten its young. Their “bench” is front-loaded with Nikki Haley, Tucker Carlson (for president!), and the Trump family circus. Advantage, us.

Goal #3

The third goal should be to rectify the Kavanaugh disaster. An effort to impeach the least qualified justice should begin as soon as the new administration is in place. The impeachment should be centered on the corrupt means which the Trump Administration used to get him appointed. It is still a mystery to me as to why Kavanaugh was even under consideration, which leads to the reasons for impeachment. Kavanaugh’s finances are at the center of this effort. There had to be any number of available candidates that could have been chosen who were as conservative and steeped in Republican values as Kavanaugh. “Why him?” The answer in my opinion rests with the intersection of Deutsche Bank, the retirement of Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court, and Justin Kennedy, the son of Justice Kennedy who was Trump’s banker at Deutsche. Like Trump, Kavanaugh’s finances, while not as headline-grabbing as his sexual exploits as a teenage drunk, are potentially far more convincing and explosive. If you follow twitter, follow Greg Olear’s threads on Kavanaugh and his article on Medium.com He underlines the facets of the FICEN Files reported at BuzzFeed as they pertain to the junior Justice. Kavanaugh doesn’t deserve the appointment on several counts, but the financial ties may expose a level of corruption and mendacity worthy of removal. If, as some suggest, Justice Kennedy was promised a pardon for his son for his involvement in the Deutsch Bank scandal in return for Kennedy’s early retirement, the impeachment can restore the honor and help balance the court without “packing.” evidence to support them, so far unproven, could fall into our hands once Trump delivers his end of term pardonathon. Watch for it.

Goal #4

The initial price that Republicans must pay for their criminal mishandling of the coronavirus is the adoption of a Democratic plan for Universal Healthcare. The cost of healthcare malfeasance most importantly in lives, but also in capital, is far greater than the cost of any plan proposed by Democrats. Universal healthcare should be considered the 21st century equivalent of Social Security. The rallying cry should be that we will never again sit by and allow healthcare to be a privilege of the rich. Never again should Americans have their medical fortunes tied to their employment. This is not a political consideration, its moral implications are far greater. This year we were forced to watch as 200,000 lost their lives due to a politicization of medical care based upon greed and profit. No more.

Pax Democratica

Because the United States, with all its faults, remains the best hope of the world for some time to come, this book is addressed especially to Americans. Between 1941 and 1945, the vast majorityof US citizens came to share a fresh view of our world responsibilities. But now, the novel concept of the 1940s, that if their great nation acted in the best interests of mankind it would best serve its own interests, is fading. Since the euphoric end of the Cold War, the American people and their political classes are paying less and less attention to the great long-term issues of world order. — Preface to James Robert Huntley’s Pax Democratic

James Robert Huntley recognized the need for democracies to step up their influence in the world. He notes in his Preface to the 1997 book what we are experiencing today. The world’s leading democracy has lost its way. Our mojo is waning. Time for the Democrats to take hold of our future. Democrats may have an opportunity to advance their policies for a generation. The key to its effectiveness is for the party and its adherents to strategize and not lose focus of long term governance in exchange for questionable short term benefits. The strategy starts with proposing policies that are aimed at leveling the playing field for all Americans. Legislate and the courts will follow.

As important as RBG’s seat on the Supreme Court is to the future, the party has to prepare for the chance that Republicans will always revert to form. This doesn’t suggest Dems should roll over, however, the opposition must be made to pay. The invoice should include banishment from positions of power for a long time. The payment should be made due to the American people who have borne the terrible incalculable cost of their perversion of the use of power. Change and the forces that mold it will ultimately determine the price. Unfortunately, we are nowhere near to determining the true costs.

Originally published at https://www.dailykos.com on September 22, 2020.



Vince Rizzo

Former president of the International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) and a founder of a charter school based on MI theory.