Let’s be honest with one another: President Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord is throwing red meat to his base. He is consumed by scandal and needs to keep his supporters from feeling dissatisfied and moving away from him. Were that to happen, his presidency would be in serious trouble. However, it likely will not, as his supporters stand behind him for this move. Democrats, seeing that their own base is fired up by Trump’s action, believe that this will be a great issue for them to use in the 2018 and 2020 elections. They could not be more wrong, as it is a symptom of their overall failure to find a winning message.
First, it is important to note a few facts:
- Americans do not believe climate change/the environment is a major issue. A Gallup poll from May 2017 found that only 2 percent of Americans believe that it is the most important issue facing the United States. At the same time, 21 percent found the economy to be the most important issue.
- The Paris Accord was an imperfect deal that lacked teeth and the ability for nations to enforce its mandates. The Nation went as far as to call it “worthless.” In effect, it was about as valuable as a degree from Trump University.
- Even though President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Accord, we will remain in it until at least November 4, 2020, which is the day after the next presidential election. The next president can certainly overturn/reenter the deal.
- The voters casting their ballot because of their anger over Trump pulling the United States out of the Paris Accord, are already voting against Trump and the GOP. They will be voting for either a candidate from the Democratic or Green Parties.
These facts are not to deny climate change or the potentially severe impact of it, but Americans do not believe it is the most important issue confronting them. It is abundantly clear that Americans want to be able to pay the bills, have a good job and achieve the American Dream.
So, what did some Democrats do? They promised to make the Paris Accord pullout the centerpiece to future campaigns. Some, went further. Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont and DNC chairman, tweeted:
The next car I buy will be made in a state or a country which observes the Paris accords
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) June 2, 2017
It was music to the ears of Republicans, as he advocated buying cars made outside of the United States, not from key places like Michigan, where the purchase would help the American economy. It was a tone deaf and stupid response to Trump’s leaving the Paris Accord.
Many have correctly observed that Democrats have a major problem on their hands due to their lack of having a message. They lack something that Americans know they stand for and understand that it is what they get when they vote for the Democrat. Why? They’ve played identity politics and tried to be everything to everyone. Yes, all races, religions and beliefs should have their voices heard, but the insistence of Democrats to do this is killing them politically, as, in the eye of American voters, it dilutes what they stand for.
This is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it was recognizable 13 years ago, when then correspondent for the Daily Show, Stephen Colbert, visited the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
White voters feel alienated from the Democratic Party and it is costing them at the polls. Since 2010, Democrats have lost over 1,000 seats at the local, state and federal levels. On top of that, 2016 demonstrated that they cannot beat Donald Trump by simply saying that they oppose him. They need to offer something tangible in order to both energize their base and convince swing voters that voting for Democrats is the right choice to make. So far, they have failed to do so.
As much as I and many other Republicans would welcome Democrats engaging in self-sabotage in winnable races and election cycles, it is not good for the health of the nation. We need a healthy two party system so that each can provide a check on the other. Currently, Democrats are not in a position where they can effectively do this.
Democrats would be wise to focus on finding a message that resonates with voters. The Paris Accord is not an issue that does so. A good place to start would be with economic issues. Voters want to know that they and their children will be financially secure.
As James Carville famously said. “It’s the economy, stupid.”