If Democrats want to get their groove back, they must run on progressive values

They must be seen as the party of the working class, not the elite

On November 8th, what many saw as unthinkable happened: Donald Trump won the presidency over Hillary Clinton.

Like students all across ASU, I was astonished that Trump was elected to control arguably the most powerful office in the world.

Although I didn’t believe Clinton had a 98 percent chance of winning, I thought she at least had a 60 percent chance, given changing demographics that many believed favored Democrats and the so-called blue wall states the Dems were guaranteed to win (which Trump stomped on by winning in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin).

Of course, Secretary Clinton did win the popular vote, but that ignores a harsh reality for the Democrats over the past eight years: They have lost a whole lot of power all over the country.

Other than Republicans gaining 1,000 state legislature seats since Barack Obama took office in January 2009, they have lost 63 seats in the House of Representatives, 10 seats in the U.S. Senate and 12 governorships since that time.

With the party already in a sort of disarray after the electoral loss to Trump (as well as failing to regain the Senate as many predicted) many saw the recent election of Tom Perez over Keith Ellison for the Chair of the Democratic National Committee as a stab in the heart to the progressive movement by a Democratic Party who had already been unfair to their standard bearer Bernie Sanders. It even started a fairly popular hashtag: #DemExit, of progressive Democrats who wanted to leave the party.

I don’t believe this kind of inner turmoil is going to lead to any kind of momentum to allow for some Democratic victories in 2018. You can’t control who leads the DNC now that the race is over, but you can lobby for the values that you believe the DNC should run on.

The best way for the Democrats going forward is by running on progressive values. Things like increasing the minimum wage, campaign finance reform, workers' rights and higher taxes on the rich.

These platforms are fairly popular among Americans. A 2014 Pew Poll found that 50 percent of Americans said that they would be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate if he or she supports the minimum wage, while only 19 percent said it would make them less likely. An Associated Press-GfK poll found that two-thirds of Americans support paid family leave after childbirth

Additionally, a 2015 poll by the New York Times found that 61 percent of Americans said that in the present economy, “Just a few people at the top have a chance to get ahead,” including 53 percent of Republicans.

David Wells is an ASU professor who teaches Government and Politics on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

He says that the differences many saw in Keith Ellison versus Tom Perez were not as vast as some made them out to be, defining them both as "progressives."

"The Democrats have to start winning at the state level, as well as House races, and I'm not sure if one candidate was clearly better at that level,” Wells said.

Wells said that the main thing Democrats need to do to win in the 2018 midterms was appeal more to working class white voters, a group that Wells said went largely for Trump in 2016.

“You need to find the right people to run for office and help get the message out so that the Democrats have a message that appeals to those folks,” Wells said.

There is a lot of populist sentiment in the United States, something that I would say was originally used by the Bernie Sanders Campaign and spread across the country, including to ASU students, many of whom supported the Senator from Vermont. And such populism seems to be the future, given that a Washington Post analysis found that that in last year’s Republican and Democratic Party, Sanders received more votes than any other candidate for those under 30 by quite a bit.

This populism was later utilized by Donald Trump in his electoral win. Mantras like “drain the swamp” and policies to help the American worker may have been seen by progressives as empty, but this kind of anti-elite populism played a role in his eventual electoral win over Hillary Clinton.

If the Democrats want to move forward, they can not be seen as the party of the elites, as well as one that doesn’t appreciate their base.

For those ASU students who formerly supported Bernie Sanders, as well as all who hold progressive views in general, they will always identify more with the Democrats than with Republicans. But to get them to come out and vote for Democrats in the midterms, which young people notoriously do not vote in, they need to run on the progressive values they care about. 

Donald Trump was able to win through an anti-elite populist message — if they want to regain some of what they lost in 2018, the best path for them is to utilize similar tactics. Otherwise, the Republican Party may just cement their gains. 


Reach the columnist at Marinodavidjr@g mail.com or follow @Marinodavidjr on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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