The Democratic Party faces an uncertain and challenging future. When Hillary Clinton and the Democrats lost in 2016, they were blamed for forgetting the white working class. However, had the Democrats reached out to these voters, they would have risked disregarding their values and alienating their base, which is more racially diverse and gender-varied. In order for Democrats to be competitive in future elections, they must reach white working-class voters, in a way that maintains commitment to their core values. Is it possible for them to reach these voters without shifting Democratic principles?
Surprisingly, the answer can be found in the line from Disney classic Lilo and Stitch: “‘Ohana’ means ‘family,’ and ‘family’ means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” These words were used throughout the 2002 movie to remind the characters that self-interest must not come at the expense of the family, which is the more important than any single person. It is every person’s duty to look out for one another. This quote embodies the core belief of the Democratic Party.
Trump voters feel that they have been left out of the Democratic Party’s family. Those who have worked in factories or in coal mines but have since lost their jobs feel real pain. They have seen their livelihoods been taken away, reduced, or demeaned. At the same time, those who voted for Trump voted for someone who views the world, not as “all of us together,” but as “us vs. them.”
Democrats have a different set of priorities that they must espouse not only during the next campaign cycle, but year-round. Democrats cannot endorse a policy to appeal to such voters without sacrificing their essential “‘Ohana’ means ‘family,’ and ‘family’ means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” This is challenging in an age of such partisanship, but there is a path forward. Democrats can win back these voters without sacrificing Ohana.
Time and time again, the Democrats have allowed Republicans to claim the strength and patriotism argument for themselves. Republicans have won supporters by claiming they are the party of patriotism. They claim that the disadvantaged only need to learn work ethic, and that the American Dream is in reach only if people are willing to reach for it.
Democrats must make the case that it is patriotic to protect and care for America’s Ohana. It is patriotic to believe in democracy. It is patriotic and a show of strength to welcome others who are fleeing from danger into this country with open arms. It is patriotic to embrace the words on the Statute of Liberty that read, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It is patriotic and strong to protect those who can’t necessarily protect themselves.
It is not patriotic to build a wall and become insular. It is strong, not weak, to allow immigrants into our country. It is strong to embrace Ohana.
Yes, it is early in the Trump administration; however, there is budding evidence that there is a large force of energized people driven to mobilize against Trump. Though it has not been framed in this way before, the force of Ohana is energizing and motivating those who are resisting Trump, as seen several hundred marches across the country and in Jon Ossoff’s challenge for a House seat in a traditionally red district in Georgia. All around the country, people of all different backgrounds and political beliefs are standing up to have their voice heard. They are demonstrating that America believes every person, no matter ability or skin color, is part of our Ohana.
Democrats must remind all Americans, particularly Trump voters, that America is a family. Most importantly, the Democrats must emphasize that supporting this family is patriotic. By rebranding their core beliefs, Democrats can both attract new members in this inclusive group and help to increase voter turnout in future elections.
If Trump voters want to be patriotic, they have to embrace Ohana, from the crazy uncle to the little cousin, from the rich grandfather to the yet-to-make-it college-aged nephew.
For the 2018 elections, the Democrats need to pitch the values of Ohana as patriotic. Through these means, they can be bold and not let fear stop them from running on their principles. Lastly, they can live out “‘Ohana” because it “means ‘family’, and ‘family’ means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”
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