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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Democrats Unified on Key Themes for 2018

The following post by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis  is cross-posted from his facebook page:

Dare I say it? The Democrats may actually be doing something right!

I get asked a lot by the press to comment on the Democratic civil war. It is always my sad duty to inform them that the rumors of war are greatly exaggerated. Folks are actually getting along pretty well and seem to have a solid idea of what they need to do to inflict a defeat on the merry band of lunatics running our country.

One guy who does get it is David Leonhardt. He has a terrific column in the Times on the actually-existing Democratic midterm campaign rather than the caricature of infighting factions favored by many reporters.

Leonhardt has this to say:

“Stacey Abrams and Conor Lamb are supposed to represent opposite poles of the Trump-era Democratic Party. She is the new progressive heroine — the first black woman to win a major-party nomination for governor, who will need a surge of liberal turnout to win Georgia. He is the new centrist hero — the white former Marine who flipped a Western Pennsylvania congressional district with support from gun-loving, abortion-opposing Trump voters.

But when you spend a little time listening to both Abrams and Lamb, you notice something that doesn’t fit the storyline: They sound a lot alike.

They emphasize the same issues, and talk about them in similar ways. They don’t come across as avatars of some Bernie-vs.-Hillary battle for the party’s soul. They come across as ideological soul mates, both upbeat populists who focus on health care, education, upward mobility and the dignity of work…

Yes, there are some tensions on the political left. But these tensions — over Obama-style incrementalism vs. Bernie-style purism, over the wisdom of talking about impeachment, over whether to woo or write off the white working class — are most intense among people who write and tweet about politics. Among Democrats running for office, the tensions are somewhere between mild and nonexistent.

Democratic candidates aren’t obsessed with President Trump, and they aren’t giving up on the white working class as irredeemably racist. They are running pocketbook campaigns that blast Republicans for trying to take health insurance from the middle class while bestowing tax cuts on the rich (charges that have the benefit of being true)….

The political scientist Theda Skocpol is among the sharpest observers of modern American politics, having studied the Obama presidency, the Tea Party reaction and now the Trump resistance. Skocpol and her colleagues are tracking Trump-leaning areas in four swing states, and she too has been struck by the Democrats’ relative unity. “Media pundits and even social scientists want to look for some kind of ideological divide,” she told me. “I just don’t see a huge set of divisions in the Democratic Party. They’re all talking about economic issues.

Doing so is smart, because it helps Democrats send the most powerful message in politics: I’m on your side — and my opponent isn’t. Americans really are divided on abortion, guns, race and other cultural issues, but they’re remarkably progressive on economics. When Democrats talk about health care, education and jobs, they can focus the white working class on the working-class part of its identity rather than the white part. And Democrats can fire up their base at the same time.

Abrams is a particularly good case study. In the primary, she argued that Democrats should stop chasing conservatives who were lost to the party and instead work to lift progressive turnout. But Abrams’s universal, populist message shows that she hasn’t given up on swing voters. Her message resembles the one that helped Barack Obama win over enough white voters in his 2012 re-election campaign.”

All correct. Now if he could just get his colleagues in the rest of the press to report this rather than the chimera of a Democratic civil war.

2 comments on “Teixeira: Democrats Unified on Key Themes for 2018

  1. Victor on

    Candidates who ignore cultural wars will eventually have to address them.

    It seems the national conversation is dominated by Immigration controversies, NFL protests, Me Too, Black Lives Matter and Gun control debates on the one hand and Russia and Trump tweets on the other.

    Are we sure the electorate is actually getting the right message from candidates?

    The issue isn’t local candidates, but rather all the leaders with a national profile. They are the ones who are constantly addressing Trump policies.

    To be fair most of them also address economic issues, specially Sanders and Warren.

    But the Congressional leadership per se (Pelosi and Schumer) are completely inconsistent in their handling of economic questions and their framing.


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