Not with the messages handed-out by Democrats in Michigan. With so much going on in this state, from crumbling infrastructure under a harsh winter to a new vibe in Detroit and tremendous growth in Grand Rapids, you would think there is a rare opportunity for Democrats to share with voters what they stand for instead of whom they stand against. 

Unfortunately, I received two emails last week from Democrats that told me they want to play politics as usual. 

Each message was a solicitation:

Subject:  Dems $6 for 6 seats

I know we have asked for a lot lately, but only because the stakes are so very high for our state. Please chip in $6 for 6 seats in November. The deadline is tonight at Midnight and 231 donors have given so far, so your $6 donation could be the one that puts us over the top to our goal of 250 donors. Tim - Sent from my iPhone.

Then minutes later, I received a similar message:

“This will be the last update you get from us for a while because our deadline is tonight at Midnight. We know that you have not given yet, but we are just 28 donations from our goal so your donation could make the difference. Please chip in $6 or whatever you can to help us hit our goal by the Midnight deadline. Thanks, Sam”

With each message, the Democrats missed a rare opportunity to engage a prospective donor and voter in why they should support them. Each time they failed to create an emotional connection and failed to educate them on what issues they stand for or stand for advancing.

With the above messages, as someone who may make a contribution, I want to know:

  • Why are those six seats important?
  • Where are those six seats?
  • Who is running? 

I need something more before making that investment, even for $6. I also don’t like the negative messaging. The timing of these messages did not fit the news cycle, just a political calendar. At the time, the Legislature was voting on spending bills that focused on infrastructure, the U.S. District Court (Eastern District) was preparing to hear a landmark case on equal and civil rights dealing with the rights of same-sex couples and the UAW was just recovering from difficult challenges in the South – Issues, that Democrats do have a leg to stand on. Issues that they could engage me better on as to what they plan on doing about it and why I should care.

Yet, this week the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee announced a major tax proposal while the state is also considering major changes to state tax laws. The President also released his Budget with funding to help those living in poverty, to help restore and protect the Great Lakes and to help enhance our aging roads and bridges. Yet, this week, the Democrats were silent and I did not receive a solicitation.

I recall a time that I sat in the Lansing office of a former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party and asked if I can help create a vision for Michigan Democrats and a strategic plan for each caucus to take back to their district that would work to create a movement or engage others in why they should support Democrats. At the time, the Chairman pointed out his window, towards the state capitol with the House and Senate controlled by Republicans, and said, “You see that building, our message is against, whatever they are for.”

If Democrats are to make gains in 2014, they need a vision.  Their message needs to be strategic, coordinated and engaging.  Today, there is no such thing as politics as usual. People are no longer voting based on a D or an R behind ones name. To help those running for office, Democrats and Republicans alike, need to figure out, what they stand for and then arm their caucus with the tools and resources to broadcast and share that message in a way that will resonate with the voter.  It is time to end the politics and focus on the policy as a way to engage voters. 

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