What the Democrats Need To Do Next

Lessons of the 2018 Elections

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With the House of Representatives, Democrats can spell out a vision for the future.

New Leadership

This victory for the Democratic Party was not the product of its leadership in Washington. It would be a mistake to say that the likes of Pelosi, Schumer, or Perez resulted in this upset. This election was a reactionary blowback to the Trump Administration, plain and simple. It was, to a large extent, made possible by the reluctance of traditional conservatives to get behind their crass Commander-in-Chief. In many cases, efforts by the DCCC only hampered or enraged Democrats at the grassroots level.

Through this election season, I met voters who were hungry for new leadership…

The only safe mindset going forward is to assume that these gains are ephemeral. They could disappear in 2020 as easily as they came this year. Thus, Democrats need to develop a better plan for this party than we have seen lately, and a better plan at this point can only come from new leaders. While Nancy Pelosi is likely to resume the role of Speaker, the truth is that she is no longer adequate for the needs of the party. She has done an excellent job of whipping House Democrats in key votes (attempts to repeal the ACA come to mind), but having an actual, reliable majority is always better than having a highly disciplined minority, because majorities are the ones who set policy.

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Congressman Tim Ryan, Source: William B. Plowman — NBC

Rebuilding the Party at the Grassroots Level

Over the last two years, and especially during this season, I got a good grasp of the state of the Democratic Party as it exists locally. Of course, my view is limited to what occurs in North Carolina, but since this is a swing state and where the scales of this national contest will tip in our favor, it can provide useful lessons for much of the rest of the country.

Continuing to point at gerrymandering and voter suppression does nothing to make Democrats more electable in the meantime.

One of the more jarring observations I continually found myself making was the dilapidation of the Democratic Party at the local level. Many county parties were effectively non-existent or highly dysfunctional. Their volunteer base was small, which made entry for several of our party’s younger, first-time candidates needlessly difficult. North Carolina had the distinction in this election of not flipping a single House seat to the Democratic Party; the Republicans held firm control of this state’s delegation, despite winning only a slight majority of the House votes statewide, at 50.3%. While the intense gerrymandering of this state is largely to blame, at least one of these seats could have been flipped, and the failure of Democrats to accomplish that in North Carolina is cause for concern.

Creating a More Inclusive Agenda

Two things currently define the Democratic Party, to its detriment. They are corporatism and identity politics. Both of these depress the party’s base and reduce its overall turnout. The shilling to corporate donors and special interests alienates the progressive, millennial voters, while the divisive tone of identity politics drives away older voters. With such a fractured base, long-term victories are untenable, so a reversal within the party is needed.

If there is an easier way to explain why we need to abandon corporatism and identity politics, it is this: Republicans are better at both.

Emphasis needs to be placed on policies that apply to everyone. Medicare-for-all is one of those policies. Repealing restrictions on unions and fighting climate change also meet this criterion. The same can be said for getting money out of politics or for funding schools and infrastructure better. Being a “pro-business” Democrat is meaningless to an indebted college graduate. Talking about white privilege to an ex-factory worker who has still not regained most of what they lost ten years ago and is now near retirement age only loses a vote. The more that Democrats go down this road, the more that a winning coalition of voters will slip through our fingers.

I discuss politics, economics, art, video games, and other interests.

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