Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Democrats Need a Lane Departure Warning: Stay in the Middle.

Yes, I watched enough of the multi-podium press conferences last week to reaffirm my basic belief that this is no way to pick a candidate. For either party. It just so happens that this go-round belongs to the Democrats and they are making good on Will Rogers' observation that this is not an organized political party.

I am heartened by the television ratings--15 million the first night and 18 million the second night--because they are indicators that more Americans are engaged in the electoral process and, I'm guessing, more than a few Trump supporters are looking to the Democrats in 2020. And given that gerrymandering is here to stay, as it always has been, it's imperative that Democrats come out to vote for their local and state races too. That's why it's critical that the party pick a nominee who can excite the broader electorate.

After this past week, though, I didn't see such a candidate.

The newsmakers, Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, helped their causes, and the perceived big loser, Joe Biden will still be leading the polls next week. But the format didn't really allow for any expansive discussion and the sheer number of candidates precluded anyone the public isn't familiar with from breaking out.

The exercise was useful as an introduction to the many candidates. I had not seen Marianne Williamson, Michael Bennet or Mr. Castro speak on the issues, so it was instructive to be able to hear then weigh in. Bernie Sanders didn't disappoint if you're a Bernie Sanders fan, and Bill de Blasio, well, he's not going to be president.

Joe Biden did not do well in his debate. He didn't really finish his thoughts and didn't point to specific legislation that an average voter could point to as one of his major accomplishments. At times, he seemed disengaged, and he set himself up for a television moment when he said that his time had run out. Harris then delivered a not-unfair story of how she was personally affected by busing, but painting Biden as a segregationist-accommodationist because he had to work with southern Democrats in the 1970s defies reality. If you wanted to get anything done in the Senate until the mid-1980s, you had to go through Democratic racists from the south. From that point forward, they became Republican racists.

What any serious student of history will know is that compromise and trading were the orders of the day during that era, and some of the most consequential legislation ever passed by the Congress came out of the 1960s and 70s, including civil rights laws, Medicare and Medicaid, public television, environmental acts, and many anti-poverty bills that have reshaped the country. To get those done, everybody had to give something up, and that's the fatal flaw in the present legislature; compromise is seen as selling out, so very little gets done. Worse, if a politician does dare to attract attention from the other side of the aisle, then they are deemed a heretic to the cause and publicly burned.

Racists voted for civil rights bills. Richard Nixon, an anti-Semite, signed bills to protect Israel. Liberals who would make today's Progressive Caucus seem like Rockefeller Republicans voted to continue the war in Vietnam. And they all did this in the name of compromise. They got something for their constituents out of their deals, whether it was money for farms, mass transit, or social legislation. If Joe Biden had to work with malodorous types, then that's what he had to do. If Kamala Harris is saying that she won't work with people she disagrees with, then she will be another in a long line of ineffective presidents.

The same goes for those who would shut down the private health care system in favor of a government-run program. Slow down. Most Americans do not want that and it's too big a leap to have any success in 2021. Add a public option to the ACA. Allow people to form cooperatives that cross state lines. The key is access. We can do it incrementally, and we should.

The Democrats need to focus on what Americans need to live more productive lives. It includes health care and tuition and economic equality and accepting people of all stripes and giving Dreamers a path to citizenship. It might not include punishing banks and making the 11 million undocumented people in this country citizens. Or even legal. Or providing them with health insurance. The party, and their candidate, needs to run on what the majority of voters see as what we need to solve our most pressing problems. Getting too far ahead of them in the name of making the Democratic base happy will not win the election. In addition, focusing on the young voters is not a winning strategy. Young voters do not come out to vote in the same numbers as other demographic groups, or in the numbers that the media experts think will come out.

Don't let this election become 1964, 1972 or 1984, where the party out-of-power reached too far to the right or left. The president has a minority of the people behind him and he's never been at 50% approval, much less above it. There are reasons for that. Focus on those.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

1 comment:

  1. I m so glad to visit this blog.This blog is really so amazing.Thanks for sharing with us.