Monday, February 10, 2020

Lessons For the Democratic Party From Latin America

Five years ago, I wrote an op-ed for Global Americans about the lessons Chile could offer the Venezuelan opposition for winning elections. Rereading it, I am struck by how it applies to the Democratic Party in the United States this year. Here were the takeaways:

1. Agree on a coalition leader.
2. Explain why the coalition excludes extremism.
3. Avoid personal attacks.

In the U.S., #1 refers to backing whoever becomes candidate, even if that person does not align perfectly with your policy preferences. This bedeviled the Venezuelan opposition back when winning elections was actually a possibility.

Now, #2 does not pertain quite so much to the U.S. because even Bernie Sanders' ideas are not radical compared to socialists in plenty of other countries. The Chileans excluded the Communists, and that just isn't relevant here. It might actually be more about explaining how your policies aren't actually as extreme as portrayed.

Finally, #3 gets to the fact that criticizing the incumbent better not get in the way of presenting a coherent and positive vision. The Chilean case sounds familiar:

The campaign to unseat Pinochet focused on the promise of a more positive future and incorporated criticism of human rights abuses into that theme. The tone of the campaign was mature, measured and optimistic. That stood in contrast to the dictatorship’s insistence that a “No” vote was the same as voting for communism.
Michelle Obama famously said the party should "go high." The idea is to stick to your message, not theirs, and that message needs to be inclusive.


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