Dear Democrats:

I am writing this open letter to the Democratic Party’s leadership in hopes that they might better understand the obstacles they face.

Every day, I receive a series of emails, tweets and Facebook posts asking me to sign the petition du jour. I don’t mean to demean the issues the petitions are intended to address. They are real. And they are important. But I must question their intent. Because, after I sign them, I immediately receive a request for money. Such requests make me question the party’s intentions. Are you serious about the issues? Or are you merely using the issues to raise campaign funds for the next election?

I suspect the answer is both. I also expect that the priority is money.

Whatever your answer, the mere fact that anyone has to ask the question points to the weakness of your communications (or, as political insiders refer to it, “messaging”). To be blunt, your messaging sucks. (“A Republican said or did something stupid, send us money” is not a winning communications strategy.) Compared to Republicans – even during the Trump era – your messaging is intermittent and incoherent. That’s because there is no cohesive leadership. And that’s because there is no single entity that can be called the Democratic Party.

There are many.

There is the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren wing that passionately fights for the little guy. There is the Barack Obama wing that is more thoughtful and sees national politics through the lens of international issues. And there is the Bill Clinton wing that is so centrist it would strike a bargain with the devil (i.e. right-wing Republicans) if it led to another “win.”

In reality, there are dozens of factions within the Democratic Party – each focused on specific issues which include civil rights, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, veteran’s rights, environment, economic equality, labor unions, education…the list is very, very long. Each of these factions wants to make its issue the party’s priority. And, too often, if the members of a particular faction don’t get their way, they effectively boycott the election.

That’s why, for as long as I have been a registered Democrat, I have heard others quote Will Rogers: “I am not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” If it’s not already obvious to you, this is a significant problem.

It’s why, even though she won 3 million more votes, Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election. And it’s why despite the fact that a significant majority of Americans support Democratic positions on most of the issues, Republicans now control the House of Representatives, the Senate and a majority of statehouses.

Yes, it’s true that Republican control is also the result of a number of other factors such as gerrymandering, voter suppression, right-wing radio, Fox News Channel, the Kochtopus of dark money organizations, and voter turnout – especially during mid-term elections. This latter issue is a direct result of the Democratic Party’s fractionalization and lack of coherent messaging.

Your own registered voters aren’t motivated enough to vote!

Democrats Should Listen To Nader.

For some time, I’ve written about the Democratic Party’s appalling ineptitude with regard to branding and messaging. The party seems utterly incapable of communicating a clear, concise and cogent message.

Most voters can recite the Republican brand – “Less government. Lower taxes.” But what does the Democratic Party stand for? What is its brand? Ask a hundred Democrats and you’ll get a hundred different answers. Ask a hundred independent voters and you’ll likely hear them parrot back some version of the Teapublican talking points – “Democrats are tax and spend liberals who are weak on foreign policy.”

In other words, Teapublicans have been more successful in branding Democrats than the Democrats themselves.

What accounts for such failure? In an article for the Huffington Post, Ralph Nader hit the nail on the head by suggesting that the party’s corporate consultants are part of the problem. Nader writes about a recent mass mailing from Nancy Pelosi, “The Pelosi mailing, uninspiring and defensive, is another product of the party’s political consultants who have failed them again and again in winnable House and Senate races against the worst Republican Party record in history.” Nader continued, “These consultants, as former Clinton special assistant Bill Curry notes, make more money from their corporate clients than from political retainers. Slick, arrogant and ever-reassuring, these firms are riddled with conflicts of interests and could just as well be Trojan horses.”

While Teapublican candidates want to destroy the government and any form of corporate regulation, Democratic candidates represent the working public…the vast majority of Americans. Yet, with few exceptions, the party has failed to tap into the smoldering, populist anger in the country. They’ve allowed the Tea Party to do that. Even though we have a Democratic president and a Democrat-controlled Senate, much of the debate in Washington has been controlled by a group of anti-government, anti-education, anti-science nitwits like Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert, Steve King, and Rand Paul.

These are people who want to take America back to the days of the Robber Barons and indentured servants. They are little more than an American version of the Taliban. But they’ve tapped into the anger generated by the collapse of our economy caused by large financial institutions. And because Democrats failed to articulate their political views and the actual causes of the crash, Teapublicans were able to redirect the blame to the victims of the crash…the people who lost their homes due to unregulated lending; the people who lost their jobs and needed to rely on unemployment insurance; the people who could no longer feed their children and needed to rely on food stamps; the so-called “moocher” class.

They blamed the victims. And the Democratic Party was so inept they let Teapublicans get away with it.

Even though Ralph Nader has been instrumental in passing legislation Democrats now claim as their own – the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Consumer Credit Disclosure Law, the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Mine Health and Safety Act, the National Automobile and Highway Traffic Safety Act and much, much more – Democrats now vilify Nader on the mistaken belief that he cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000. He didn’t. (The result actually had more to do with fraudulent absentee ballots, voter suppression in Florida counties and a partisan Supreme Court.)

No one has fought harder for American consumers and workers than Ralph Nader. Democrats would be wise to listen to him now instead of their overpaid, underperforming corporate consultants.