As the Democratic Party shifts further away from the center, an emerging narrative is that this might not be the best idea for recapturing the more conservative parts of America from a Republican Party that has become dangerously unstable:
Enter a group called New Democracy, a combination think tank and super PAC trying to reimagine the party’s brand in regions where Democrats have suffered deep losses.
Leaders of the group want to focus on rebuilding in states where, during the Obama presidency, Democrats lost nearly 1,000 legislative seats and more than a dozen governor’s mansions.
The effort is publicly being labeled as “supplemental” to the emerging agenda being crafted on Capitol Hill, including the highly populist “Better Deal” proposal that party leaders in the House and the Senate touted last month. But the new group’s leaders do not see that agenda, including a push for lower prescription-drug prices, as particularly helpful to Democrats in exurban districts or key Midwestern states that President Trump won last year.
A successful New Democracy will lead to a slew of new Blue Dog Democrats, something that will absolutely enrage the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. And it's not like they wouldn't have good reason to be angry, the Blue Dogs are the reason Obama couldn't even try for single payer and it's why he also had to abandon the public option.
On the other hand, as much as the Bernie people may want the Democratic Party to be the party of progressive purity, there's simply no denying that there just aren't enough pro-choice, pro-LGBT, pro-immigration, anti-Wall Street voters in states like Kansas to elect Bernie-approved candidates to the local school board, much less send them to Congress. Red states aren't red only because of gerrymandering and voter suppression. Offering them a candidate endorsed by The Young Turks is a surefire way to keep that seat Republican.
The Democratic Party is the party of inclusion because we have room for a wide spectrum of ideas. That means that we as individual Democrats have to be able to accommodate groups who have different priorities than we do. We don't need a candidate in Wyoming to go to the mat for Black Lives Matter just like we don't need a candidate in California to go to the mat for the rights of rural gun owners. As long as they don't oppose it, they don't have to make it their marquee issue.
One of the problems with demanding ideological purity is that it ignores the stunning diversity of the Democratic Party. One of the principal reasons Bernie's anti-Wall Street message didn't resonate with black voters isn't because they don't care about it. Of course they care about the big banks crashing the economy, but it's hard to focus on that when the police have been terrorizing your community for decades.
At the same time, Hillary Clinton didn't resonate with younger voters because she didn't put enough focus on income inequality, leading them to claim she didn't care about it at all. She did, but she didn't make that the center of her message so younger voters felt snubbed more or less the same way black voters felt snubbed by Bernie.
How do you think midwestern voters feel when one wing of the party focuses on identity politics they don't care about and the other focuses on Wall Street all the way over there in New York City? Hint: The word you're looking for is "snubbed."
Democrats represent the aspirations of their voters while Republicans represent the hatred of theirs. I am no fan of Joe Manchin but he doesn't represent me, an atheist Puerto Rican Jew who grew up in Brooklyn, he represents West Virginia, a group of people whose aspirations have very little in common with mine. To demand that a Democrat that would appeal to a rural West Virginian be interchangeable with one that would appeal to me is ludicrous.
I don't like the Blue Dogs but I understand that they must reflect the needs of the people they serve or they'll be replaced by a Republican who only reflects the greed of the rich. There is no world in which that is preferable and if we have to put up with Democrats who want to slow things down, it's worth it as long as we're still moving forward instead of backwards into the nightmare America is currently gripped in. "Incrementalism" is only a curse word to those who are safe from the ravages of Trumpism; for everyone else, progress at any speed is worth fighting for.
That's something we should try to remember in the coming days as we step in to fill the void left by the self-immolating Republican Party. The demand for political purity cost us a chance to continue making steady progress and now we're on the brink of losing it all, possibly forever. Refusing to learn from mistakes isn't particularly progressive.
There are 452 days left to the 2018 elections.
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