Mitch McTurtle and the Democrats' Ongoing Identity Crisis: Party leaders still struggling to turn Trump outrage into Popularity


This past week, the Nevada Democratic Party formally announced a mascot for the 2018 midterm elections: a turtle meant to mock Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with the name “Mitch McTurtle.” Rather than focus on policy or try to win over voters by appealing to issues important to them, Nevada Democratic leaders — who are hoping to defeat GOP Senator Dean Heller, who faces re-election this year — have wasted time and resources on a stupid publicity stunt that was widely mocked.

Slate called it “the worst campaign idea since ‘Pokemon go to the polls.’” The Democratic candidate for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, Amy Vilela, tweeted, “This isn’t how we take back Congress. We need bold action & serious party leadership, with focus on the issues that matter to everyday Nevadans. NVDEMS should apologize for this juvenile stunt immediately.” The mascot is emblematic of a Democratic Party that continues to stumble as it tries to find its message, establish an identity, and figure out a way to connect with voters who are outraged by the Trump Administration.

The National Democratic Party made a similarly stupid  marketing judgement earlier this month when it tweeted a photoshopped DVD cover of the film, Mean Girls, to try to make fun of Trump and Republicans.

“Which vendor was in charge of this? If only there was some oversight of this at the @dnc. I’d like to know how much money they made and how long they’ve been pushing this kind of pseudo-clickbait.” DNC Unity Commission member Nomiki Konst tweeted in response to this pathetic attempt at humor. Our Revolution President Nina Turner added, “Take this down please. Mean Girls? Burning each other? WTH? We have real work to do and this ain’t it!”

Bad slogans and jokes — with no serious policy initiatives — have been the Democratic Party’s modus operandi since Trump took office. These range from“Make America Sick Again,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer’s failed rebrand of Trump’s MAGA slogan in January 2017, to congressional Democrats falling flat with their highly touted “Better Deal” campaign last Summer. Then there was the party’s much derided proposed slogan, “Have you seen the other guys?”

In a poll conducted this month by NPR, PBS, and Marist, the Democratic Party’s approval ratings have slipped to just six percentage points above Republicans, an especially poor performance as the GOP holds the presidency and majorities in both houses of congress. The poll also found independent voters were leaning by two percentage points to Republicans.

Riding what is treated as an inevitable blue wave in 2018 is not a promising strategy for the Democratic Party, which needs to at least recapture the House in the midterm elections if it has any hope of blocking Republicans from unchecked power until 2020.

Not every opponent faced by Democrats will be as vulnerable as scandal ridden Roy Moore, whose low standing enabled Doug Jones’ upset victory in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate last month. And even Jones’ campaign almost blew his chances by distributing a racist, offensive flyer to potential voters.

The unpopularity of Trump and Republicans has yet to correlate to a grassroots resurgence of the Democratic Party. Its leaders, proposal and strategies are relatively unchanged despite drastic losses during the Obama Administration and Trump’s victory, so it’s not surprising that the same Democrats responsible for such catastrophic losses have failed to translate Trump outrage into renewed popularity.

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