Democrats and Losing Choices

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Republicans control the United States House. Republicans control the United States Senate. Republicans control most of the Governorships in America. Republicans control most of the State Legislatures in America. There are more Republican-appointed Judges on the U.S. Supreme Court than Democrat. Republicans control the White House.

Now that we’ve identified what’s wrong with the Democratic Party, let’s review why it’s so.

For some, Democrats don’t win elections because they are not “liberal” or “progressive” enough. This means different things to different people though. For the “Bernie Left,” Democrats are not progressive enough on policy issues, and if we’d just talk class warfare more, we’d win back some of the white voters who abandoned us for Donald Trump. For others, we are not “embracing our base” enough, and we’re losing because we’re chasing the “white working class” instead of trying to grow the “emerging electorate.” This fight has stoked passions, but I don’t think it has much to do with getting the Democrats back to winning elections.

The Democrats probably currently hold all of the seats in Congress that they should be able to hold by following either of these playbooks. How many seats in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Atlanta, or any other major metropolitan areas of the country are held by the Republicans? A small, small number. How many Republican seats are majority-minority? How many seats are held by Republicans that support higher taxes? Hillary Clinton, for her faults, won poor voters, including white, poor voters. Hillary won white voters who said the economy was their top concern too. Democrats did not, and have not, had a problem winning over minority voters in recent elections- they currently are winning 90% plus of African-Americans, 70% plus of Latino voters, clean majorities of women, the LGBTQ community, Asian-Americans, and Millennials. In other words, the Democratic Party is already winning over most of the people who would find either the Sanders or Clinton wings of the party’s message to be appealing. There aren’t many seats to gain in Manhattan or Austin. Perhaps, Democrats are very good at what they do already- and perhaps it’s not good enough.

The seats Democrats lost in 2010 and 2014, and probably need to win back to build majorities, don’t fit either side of the debate. The 23 “Clinton Republican” seats from 2016 are neither socialist or “identity politics” seats. They didn’t vote out Democrats in 2010 or 2014 because they weren’t “Democrat” enough. They voted them out because they didn’t feel the Democrats offered them anything they wanted.

There is an argument that the rising American electorate is going to give Democrats an advantage in Presidential elections moving forward, though there is an equally compelling argument that the Electoral College will claw that advantage away from us. Even if that is the case, Democrats won’t be able to do much with that advantage if our activists and primary voters insist on playing by the playbook of either side of the inner-party battle- neither side leads to a sustainable Congressional majority. It is arguable that Democrats are simply screwed by the self-sorting nature of society, and that our voters are all packed into small geographic areas. If that’s the case though, than perhaps our activists need to realize that nominating our ideal members of Congress in seats we don’t have right now probably will lead us to defeat. That seems to be make sense when you consider where we have to win.

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