This will be a "choice" election, Senator Menendez said Sunday on Meet The Press. Impressive as he was on that show, he was nonetheless echoing the "choice" talking points that undoubtedly have been sent around to Democratic spokespersons.
Instead of appealing to voters with a track record of promised change, the new "choice" mantra essentially asks voters to consider: "Which party would you rather vote for -- the one hammering on your foot or those bad people from before who were hammering on your head?" In short, vote Democratic because "we'll do less harm."
Most voters want all hammering to stop. What part of "Stop" don't they understand on Capitol Hill and in the White House?
If the Democratic Party wants to win and do so honestly, if it wants to provide a real choice, here are six things it can do for starters:
(1) Stop the hypocrisy on economic policy. Quit asking people, "Do you really want to go back to the Bush economic policies of the past?" while at the same time keeping people in charge of the economy who facilitated that debacle. If it weren't for them, tax breaks for the rich would be history by now.
(2) Stop acceding to the Republican lie that the government can't -- on its own or in partnership with business -- increase the availability of jobs in a time of need. Force through funding and legislation to put millions of people back to work.
(3) Stop with the finely-crafted speeches, and provide more -- a lot more -- spontaneous communication between the president, the people and the press. These were way up there among the kinds of changes voters expected but haven't seen from an Obama administration. If voters can't see and hear just how Obama thinks, outloud and on his feet, they'll decide for themselves. And that's really not going too well, is it?
(4) Give citizens a real choice. Instead of finely parsed increments of change, demonstrate the distinct departure from the Bush presidency that Americans voted for. Here's the status quo on some major issues: The debt has increased along with unemployment, and there is little in the way of coherent infrastructure or energy plans. Our troops are fighting two major ground wars. The plan for Afghanistan has become as vague as the plan for Iraq was with GWB. How are ordinary Americans supposed to see "change" or even "choice" in these things? Where are the differences here? Explain, please.
(5) Stop saying the reason for voter discontent is that Americans don't know what actually has been accomplished. Well, whose fault is that? Learn to communicate.
(6) Bring jobs back home. Remember the Obama campaign promise? Start rewarding companies that manufacture products in the USA. Stop rewarding the ones that don't unless they're creating jobs here. Engage in a massive campaign that encourages consumers to purchase items made in the USA. Why not issue government coupons for reductions on products manufactured here? Why not reward retailers who sell a significant portion of made-in-America products? That's pro-business and pro-American. Maybe the fancy economists in the White House could launch a few creative ideas if they weren't so busy helping their "too big to fail" friends in banking and trying to block Elizabeth Warren from becoming a constructive part of the team.
If the Democrats are going to offer choice as a reason to vote for them, they must make a choice in their favor worth our while. This time, a simple "C" word repeated over and over won't be enough. And surely if it looks at all like just another empty election strategy, there's going to be a boomerang effect.
There's still time to make enough real change happen so that the reason to vote for Democrats is more substantial than "choice" in the form of: "Well, it's not as bad as voting for the other side." Come on. Give us a little credit here. We're not up for that kind of bogus technique -- no thank you -- not this time.
Dr. Reardon also blogs at bardscove.