Over the past year I’ve written about how thinking like a marketing organization instead of a political party can help the Democrats find their way out of the wilderness and back into power (you’ll find some links to earlier articles further down).
A good opportunity for this arrives with the coming congressional debate over the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. As we all know by now, the president suspended DACA last year, throwing the fate of nearly 800,000 sympathetic young “Dreamers” who’ve never known any home other than the U.S. into limbo. The question will come to a head over the next few weeks. On the agenda at the same time are critical votes to avoid a government shutdown, fund the children’s health insurance program, stabilize health insurance markets and pay the substantial disaster relief bill caused by last year’s hurricanes.
The political calculus poses the question in stark terms. Do the Democrats want to walk into this fray as the party of compromise or obstruction? Is insisting on a humane solution for the Dreamers worth the risk of a possible government shutdown and loss of all these other priorities?
Thinking like a marketing organization makes the decision easier. In marketing communications we look at what a thing symbolizes, and how might that work for the brand. The Dreamers symbolize so much of what is good about America that taking a resolute stand on protecting them can’t help but become a powerful message for the Democrats. It’s not a question of obstruction; it’s about doing what’s right.
Not only do the Republicans need Democratic votes to avoid a shutdown. They’ve also managed to hand the opposition party the moral and ethical high ground by holding these sympathetic young people hostage to a narrow political agenda. The president spent the past week making that abundantly clear, issuing a laundry list of harsh demands in return for action on DACA. Add to that the administration’s sudden decision to deport nearly 200,000 Salvadorans who’ve been legally living and working in this country for decades. The optics couldn’t be worse.
The messages that could be sent, more than any vote counting, gives the Democrats leverage to insist on a clean vote for the Dreamers.
In addition, the Republicans control all the levers of government. Any reasonably competent party in such a situation shouldn’t need help to avoid a government shutdown. The Democrats win by offering to work together for the good of the country and in particular the Dreamers. But there is little risk to their brand by refusing to do so at the expense of their principles. It might even strengthen them further.
Thinking in terms of which party has the brand that resonates with the American people right now, the Democrats are in a stronger position than they might realize. They can demand a solution to the plight of the Dreamers without giving in to the most odious of the president’s demands, and let the governing party sweat out the risk of a shutdown if they don’t like it.
We could go deeper into things like whether anyone still believes the current Republican government can even be trusted, and the many promises and understandings the president and his party has made about avoiding a shut down, protecting the Dreamers, stabilizing healthcare and doing a good job for hurricane victims (remember what happened when Obama’s “you can keep your doctor” statement proved false?). But the conclusion is the same. If they hold together, the Democrats have much to gain and little to lose by going to the matt for the Dreamers.
Below are links to more of this sort of thinking for the Democrats. Thanks for reading, and please keep the conversation going by hitting the reply button.