The Winning Message for Democrats


How to take on Trump? A question for which few have had a good, or at least productive, answer. But I liked what Josh Shapiro, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, had to say in a recent interview.

“We’re producing more energy than ever before in this nation. We have the strongest economy in the world, and we are beating China for the first time in decades. More people went to work this morning in America than at any other time in our nation’s history. So I’ve got a message to Donald Trump and all his negativity and his whining: Stop sh*t-talking America. This is the greatest country on earth, and it’s time that we all start acting like it.”

Make the case for America. Point to the positives. Call people to pride, patriotism and hope. Enough of the complaints, the grievances, the whining and the pessimism.

Call Trump out for his negativity, his “this is the end-ism.” And most of all for being such a whiner. Tag him “Donnie — Not a Winner, a Whinner.” ‘Everyone is out to get me,” really isn’t that appealing.

Life is always full of challenges and problems. The question is not how to escape them, in this case, to be delivered by some pseudo-strongman. The question is what are we going to do about the problems face?

But here’s the dirty little secret (only its not really a secret) on this matter of pride and patriotism: the Democrats have plenty in their ranks who are, to use Shapiro’s words, “sh*t-talking America.”

In truth, American pride and patriotism has probably been more of a Republican and Red State thing, at least in my lifetime. Although, in a weird way: we love American, but we hate our government. Our nation, right or wrong. But politicians, government employees? Shoot ’em.

In some ways, Obama was an exception to the Democrat’s American ambivalence. He was forever saying, “Only in America is my story possible.” Even as a double-entendre it was on a balance bullish on the U.S. of A.

So Shapiro’s bracing call, “This is the greatest country on earth. It’s time we started acting like it,” is also an appropriate challenge to his own people and his own party.

It needs to be directed toward the woke, the progressives and the liberals. Dem’s, at least many, also need an “attitude adjustment,” pretty much along the lines of Shapiro’s rebuke of Trump.

I wonder how Gov. Shapiro’s, “This is the greatest country on earth. It’s time we started acting like it,” would go down at his Party’s upcoming National Convention? I wonder how it would go down on college campuses and at progressive churches?

Well, while we’re dispensing “attitude adjustments” on these matters, I am probably due for one of my own! Idealistic about America as I kid, disillusioned by Vietnam and, of late, hardly optimistic. But disillusionment means seeing your illusions for what they are. It doesn’t mean giving up.

And, by the way, “Happy Flag Day: June 14.”

Anthony B. Robinson
Anthony B. Robinson
Tony is a writer, teacher, speaker and ordained minister (United Church of Christ). He served as Senior Minister of Seattle’s Plymouth Congregational Church for fourteen years. His newest book is Useful Wisdom: Letters to Young (and not so young) Ministers. He divides his time between Seattle and a cabin in Wallowa County of northeastern Oregon. If you’d like to know more or receive his regular blogs in your email, go to his site listed above to sign-up.


  1. Thanks for putting my thoughts into words. Maybe I am “just a cock-eyed optimist”, but though I am worried about how things are at this moment, I am quite confident about America’s future. But the caveat is, we Americans have to regain our confidence and trust in ourselves and — most importantly — in each other.

  2. Yup.
    I think you’ve called it well.

    Significant parts of the Democratic base ….. Seattle a good example, maybe even some readers and writers of “Post Alley”?… have moved from a healthy skepticism to an often-ignorant cynicism.

    On the positive side, DEI etc. is waning… not fast enough but little by little, I hope.

  3. In Archangelo’s perfect world, the ≈50% of Drumpfh’s pseudo-Christian supporters acknowledge his whole charade, abandon Cheetolini, and vote based on incontrovertible facts instead of contrived grievance.

    The Qepublican Party than remakes itself and starts over.

    The country starts to recover and moves forward.

  4. This is a great post. I’ve been feeling this way for quite some time, and I’m glad to hear others feel the same.

    It’s really quite simple. Biden and the Democrats should campaign in favor of
    “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”

    One idea I did come up with last night was that Biden could do a series of TV ads featuring him talking to folks in an informal setting, such as someone’s living room. I’d have him dress informally (shirt sleeves or a sweater, no suit), and have him talk about what it means to be an American, what our ideals are, how we have strived to met our greater aspirations, and how, despite stumbling at times, we truly aspire to great a “more perfect union.” He could evoke the memory of many past presidents such as Eisenhower, and both Roosevelts, Gerry Ford, Harry Truman, emphasizing that, while they may have had differing political views, they all tried to do what was right for the country. FDR had his “fireside chats” during the depression.

    Let’s focus on the mood of the country, as opposed to policy minutia, which only appeals to political wonks anyways. We need to be upbeat or, as Ronald Reagan so successfully put it, “It’s Morning in America.”

    • Agree to your thoughts.

      As I get older & learn more about the dismal state of most governments around the globe, I constantly thank my luck that my forbears immigrated to the USA and that I am an American; and I shudder to think of where I might be living now. (And where my very distant relations might still live.).

      Decades ago a friend and I were talking about the USA and the (then) USSR. I think I might have been a bit overly-critical of our American flaws and he pointed out one huge & simple incontrovertible fact:
      — people try desperately to move INTO the USA;
      — the USSR made it very difficult for people to LEAVE.

      Something to consider.

      • As someone who moved to one of those “most governments around the globe”, I shudder to think of where you might be living in a few years.

        The idea particularly that Americans are free while the rest of the world is somehow toiling in slavery, is a staple MAGA myth that excuses abuses that are in fact making America more of a 3rd world country every year. Sure, you want to steer clear of North Korea etc., but generally America lags the West in some important, concrete measures, and those freedoms we’re so proud of tend to be either trivial or illusory.

        One of the very good things about the Biden administration is that we’re again part of the world community, playing the role that we still can play there as a valued equal.

          • No, I’m just saying “America – many countries are worse!” isn’t a good place to start from.

            Maybe a better way to approach that topic is to acknowledge the high standard of living and political freedom in so much of the world, and talk a little about the role the US has played in that. What we have done, why we did it. That leads into policy areas that in 2024 belong entirely to the Democratic Party, if the idea of the US as a world leader means anything to you.

  5. The normal liberal response is that America is wonderful as a goal, and there is still much to fix as we converge on liberty and equality. I don’t detect a pessimism in that formula, but rather a call to action. But Tony is right to be more open about patriotism, particularly for this pivotal election. I would pitch the attack on Trump as a threat to take away liberties and freedom (to vote, to report, to speak, to move, to craft one’s own destiny).

    • Agreed. 1) There’s a difference between patriotism and jingoism. 2) Instead of “Make America Great Again”, try “Make America Better”.

  6. To be sure, it is not more massed American flags or red, white and blue balloons, that the Democrats or the country need. It is the confidence and energy for our common project as America and Americans that came through in Governor Shapiro’s words. An emphasis on liberties too easily becomes negative (i.e. what Trump will take from you) and primarily individualistic.

  7. “You should be happy, so many things are going well” is not a winner. You can’t convince someone to be happy. A strategy that clearly marks the differences of the
    Democratic plan for the next four years and the Republican plan is necessary. Support expanded Medicaid or destroy it? Support our allies or abandon them and NATO? Make a rational plan for handling immigration or deport tens of thousands? Reinforce the IRS to collect taxes owed or reduce funding and encourage more tax cheats? Recognize that inflation is a problem for many and document the continued progress in reducing it, or throw in the towel and elect a candidate with no plan? Make explicit the contrasts between the candidates.


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