Democratic response from Steve Beshear shows no audacity, no hope

Photo: CNN

Steve Beshear, a Democrat and former governor of Kentucky, presented the Democratic response to Trump’s speech to Congress. Where Trump delivered platitudes mixed with policy in front of Congress, Beshear gave us platitudes mixed with whining (in a diner).

It probably didn’t help that Beshear doesn’t know who he is. Here’s his confused opener:

I’m Steve Beshear. I was governor of Kentucky from 2007 to 2015. Now I’m a private citizen.

I’m here in Lexington, Ky. — some 400 miles from Washington — at a diner with some neighbors — Democrats and Republicans — where we just watched the president’s address. I’m a proud Democrat, but first and foremost, I’m a proud Republican, and Democrat, and mostly American.

All righty, then.

Platitudes to believe in

Like Trump, Beshear shared lots of squishy verbiage about his feelings about the country.

The America I love has always been about looking forward, not backward, about working together to find solutions, regardless of party, instead of allowing our differences to divide us and hold us back.

And we Democrats are committed to creating the opportunity for every American to succeed by growing our economy with good-paying jobs, educating and training our people to fill those jobs, giving our businesses the freedom to innovate, keeping our country safe, and providing health care that families can afford and rely on. . . .

Real leaders don’t spread derision and division. Real leaders strengthen, they unify, they partner, and they offer real solutions instead of ultimatums and blame.

Look, I may be old-fashioned, but I still believe that dignity, compassion, honesty and accountability are basic American values. And as a Democrat, I believe that if you work hard, you deserve the opportunity to realize the American dream, regardless of whether you’re a coal miner in Kentucky, a teacher in Rhode Island, an autoworker in Detroit or a software engineer in San Antonio.

Our political system is broken. It’s broken because too many of our leaders think it’s all about them. They need to remember that they work for us and helping us is their work. . . .

Democrats are trying to bring that same focus back to Washington, D.C. Americans are a diverse people. And we may disagree on a lot of things, but we’ve always come together when we remember that we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Here is the test of a meaningless platitude: would anyone disagree with it? Who are these people in favor of looking backward, failing to find solutions, failing to grow the economy, poor paying jobs, and failing to keep the country safe? Who’s against dignity, compassion, honest, and accountability? Who’s taking a brave stand against the pledge of allegiance? Whoever those imaginary people are, Bashear will protect us from them.

The biggest platitude: Democrats are against Trump

The platitudes make up about one-third of the speech. One-third is Beshear bragging about things he did in Kentucky. And the remaining third is complaining about stuff Trump is doing:

But one of your very first executive orders makes it harder for those families to even afford a mortgage. Then you started rolling back rules that provide oversight of the financial industry and safeguard us against another national economic meltdown.

And even more troubling, you and your Republican allies in Congress seem determined to rip affordable health insurance away from millions of Americans who most need it. Does the Affordable Care Act need some repairs? Sure, it does. But so far, every Republican idea to “replace” the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of Americans covered, despite your promises to the contrary. . . .

These ideas promise “access” to care but deny the importance of making care affordable and effective. They would charge families more for fewer benefits and put the insurance companies back in control. Behind these ideas is the belief that folks at the lower end of the economic ladder just don’t deserve health care, that it’s somehow their fault that their employer doesn’t offer insurance or that they can’t afford to buy expensive health plans. . . .

Yet President Trump is ignoring serious threats to our national security from Russia, who’s not our friend, while alienating our allies, who’ve fought with us side by side and are our friends in a dangerous world. His approach makes us less safe and should worry every freedom-loving American.

Instead, President Trump has all but declared war on refugees and immigrants. Look, the president can and should enforce our immigration laws. But we can protect America without abandoning our principles and our moral obligation to help those fleeing war and terror, without tearing families apart, and without needlessly jeopardizing our military men and women fighting overseas.

It’s very nice that Beshear has clarified some of Trump’s policies that he’s against. But what are the Democrats for? Not a clue.

What we need from the opposition

Trump won the election because he inspired more people in swing states than Hillary Clinton did. Regardless of what you think of his policies and style, they got people off the couch and into the voting booths in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

The main message that people heard from Hillary Clinton was “I’m white, and I’m against Trump, who is really bad.” Her inability to articulate a vision of what she was for cost her the election. (As much as you may want to blame James Comey, a more inspiring Democratic candidate would have been able to withstand those accusations and triumph anyway.)

This Democratic response sounds just like Hillary Clinton: We’re for good old American and Democratic values, and we’re against the bad things Trump is doing. Vote for us because Trump is bad.

This may reassure solid Democrats, but it’s not going to win over the portion of America that voted for Trump, but is now having doubts. And that’s who the Democrats need to rebuild their party.

In parliamentary countries like the UK, the opposition party proposes actual policies, even though they are out of power. That way you know what they are for, not just what they are against. If the Democrats want to regain power in the next set of election, they have to stand for something.

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  1. Agreed, one must be able to clearly state their positions or be ignored, this “response” was a confusing stew of unclear messages. This is essentially the same thing the Republicans suffered under for eight years during the Obama Admin, all they could say was what they didn’t like. Trump broke the dam of indecision for the Republican Party and stated some very clear ideas–whether one likes or dislikes the ideas, they are clear. An opposition party must define their stance or be resigned to wander the wilderness until a leader emerges ready to define the party goals, the same as any marketing message for a product or service.

  2. I disagree. America has been divided since 1992. The country’s election is decided by few states and now by few people. I don’t think these speeches are moving the needle anymore. Speeches are not that important like they used to be.