The Future of the Democratic Party
I understand that many of my readers are really tired of politics. I am also tired of politics. Since the election I watched all six seasons of Breaking Bad, otherwise known as the centerpieces of the Ryan/Trump health care plan. (For those who are unfamiliar with the show, the main character Walter White becomes a meth dealer in order to pay for lung cancer treatments not covered by his insurance.)
I am committed to presenting at most four purely political posts in 2017. This post was motivated by analysis presented by Foz News Contributor and former Clinton aid Doug Schoen.
Doug Schoen’s Analysis:
In the article above Doug Schoen, a former Clinbton advisor argues that the Democratic party is in an extremely perilous position for the 2018 election. He specifically cites Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Jon Tester of Montana as the senators at higher risk of losing their seat in 2018. He argues that the party needs to move away from Sanders/Warren positions and back towards the centrist views of the Clinton wing. He argues that the nation as a whole supports many of Trumps policies., specifically siting immigration, tax reform and abortion. He does not include trade policy on this list.
Comment One: Tbe Democrats prospects in 2018 are actually far worse than depicted by Schoen. Incumbent Democratic Senators will face stiff challenges in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan all states that Trump won. Republicans have a clear advantage in three of these states – Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin – where they own the governorship and the other Senate seat. It is possible the Republicans will have sixty seats in the U.S. senate after the 2018 election.
Comment Two: The Democrats did not get in their current position by moving too far to the left towards the views of the Sanders wing of the party. Hillary Clinton was the standard bearer in 2016. It was under her leadership that the Democrats lost key Senate races in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida. Donald Trump won the state of Ohio and Iowa by a lot in 2016 and both of these states should be classified as leaning red in 2020. This new reality is on the Clinton camp and the decision by the DNC to discourage active political debate in 2016.
Comment Three: It is possible, in my view likely, that a leftward drift of the party will hurt chances of future Democratic candidates in 2018 and 2020. I believe Bernie Sanders and his wing makes a lot of compelling points about problems but his proposals do not appear to be fiscally feasible.
Comment Four: Framing future intra-party contests as a choice between the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party is not a recipe for future success. Issues like Social Security and retirement security are really complex. Democrats argued for an expansion of future Social Security benefits while ignoring the fact that under current law Social Security benefits will be automatically cut once trust fund reserves are reduced. Neither Clinton nor Sanders were able to articulate consistent feasible solutions to student debt or problems with the ACA. Clinton simply moved towards Sander’s views once she trashed him to get the nomination. Going forward the Democratic Party needs more strong voices that will examine issues in more detail.
The decision by the Democratic Party to coalesce around Clinton in 2016 and not have a robust debate is the reason why the party is where it is.
Comment Five: Schoen does not mention trade, the key issue Trump won Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by a very thin margin. I believe that the world may be much worse off if Trump implements protectionism but as Trump says he represents America not the world. Many Democrats in the Sanders wing of the party voted for Trump because their views on trade were closer to Trump’s views than to Clinton’s views. Hillary Clinton’s reversal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership did not appear genuine and may have cost her the election. The Democrats need to do a better job explaining how their trade policies will help people in the Midwest.
Comment Six: The Democrats cannot get votes by moving towards Trump’s immigration policy. People who share Trump’s views on immigration and vote because of this view will not vote for the Democrats. Democrats need to appeal to Trump voters through other issues -- retirement security, health care, student debt, and education quality.
Comment Seven: Schoen argues that the American people agree with Trump on abortion. Which view? I am not persuaded. Remember Obama was pro-choice and won twice.
Comment Eight: I am concerned that the Democratic party’s antagonism against charter schools cost them a lot of voters in Michigan, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin and that this stance will influence future elections.
Comment Nine: Right now Democrats and liberal pundits continue to spend a lot of time on Trump’s tax returns, Trump’s misogyny, wiretaps, and Russian involvement in the election. No one in the Democratic Party and the supporting media is spending time creating an alternative agenda. For example, the Democrats have not offered a practical alternative to the Ryan Health Care approach. Sander’s has a single-payer proposal with no path forward in the foreseeable future. Trump and Ryan own the airwaves.
The Clinton campaign spent far more time characterizing Trump as a pussy-grabber corrupt man who was refusing to show his tax returns than in explaining how they would solve America’s problems. The Democrats are still focused on the tax returns. Trump is correct that the American people don’t care about this issue.
Trump won in 2016 because a lot of people were attracted to his views on trade and he was able to peel off voters who lean Democratic but had kids in charter schools.
The characterization of the Democratic Party as being divided into a Clinton and Sanders camp is not very useful. The new leaders of the party – Klobuchar, Wyden, Warren, Kaine, Warner, Booker and Gillebrand --- need to step up sooner rather than later.