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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Why ‘Big Tent’ Strategy for Dems Targeting ‘Moderate’ Republicans Must Prevail Over Manchin-Blaming

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

Calling All Big Tent Democrats!

The Welcome Party organization is doing some great work trying to build a big tent Democratic party. They have some stern words for those on the left of the party who seem more interested in fratricidal attacks on Joe Manchin than in building the big tent party actually capable of defeating an increasingly authoritarian GOP. From their newsletter (well worth subscribing to):

“In vitriolic response to Manchin’s “Fox News Sunday” appearance, the Twitterverse has been brimming with everything from preposterous assertions that the West Virginia Democrat is, in fact, a Republican to nonsensical insinuations that he has done more than Mitch McConnell to blow up Biden’s agenda. These extreme and dishonest characterizations come either from a place of ignorance, malevolence, or both….

To put it mildly, the differences between Manchin and MAGA are stark. Mitch McConnell couldn’t be more off-base when he argues that Manchin would fit in better with the GOP than with the Democrats, but that has not stopped him from getting away with doing so. At a time when Democrats should be doing everything they can to convert the handful of remaining pro-democracy Republicans (such as those who voted for Trump’s impeachment), it is both striking and problematic that the obstructionist in chief and his ever-more-authoritarian cabal are leading the charge on cross-partisan recruitment.

The Democrats desperately need a big-tent, pro-democracy faction capable of appealing to cross-partisan coalitions of voters in swing districts across the country — and there’s no better place to start than with those elected officials on the center-right who clearly feel alienated from today’s radicalized GOP. Fostering such a faction requires that the party and its leadership make it crystal clear that they welcome and encourage a diversity of voices and perspectives, and that begins with Manchin. While the West Virginia senator won’t support everything that his colleagues to the left propose, they should be receptive to and grateful for everything that he is willing to get behind. After all, they’re lucky to have him.

As we wrote earlier this fall in The Bulwark, Democrats should be responding with empathy and aggressive recruitment to the growing spectre of political intimidation on the right. When the far-right has chosen to engage in threats of physical intimidation against members of the GOP, the Trump wing has largely been rewarded with retracted critiques and retirements.

As The Spectator World observed back in October, this kind of intimidation — physical and psychological — doesn’t work on Joe Manchin. When the far-left tried to pressure Manchin (he told the White House his family had “been the target of abuse”), they simply tore at the seams of an already-fragile big tent….

The disproportionate one-sidedness of this week’s conversation seems to suggest that the kind of self-righteous, pie-in-the-sky thinking that animates the online left is increasingly seeping into and molding how a substantial segment of the Democratic mainstream thinks — across the party’s leadership, base, and media allies. In many ways, it’s a mirroring of the same kind of far-left groupthink that gripped the candidates during the 2020 party primary debates. Remember when Elizabeth Warren raked John Delaney over the coals (to thundering applause) for his suggestion that Democrats are best served by running on “real solutions, not impossible promises”?

Warren’s leftist nihilism — “I don’t understand why someone goes to all the trouble of running for President of the United States just to talk about what we can’t do” — eloquently forecast Democrats’ 2022 predicament, where the left can plainly state not only disinterest in reality, but disdain for it.

Democrats from deep-blue strongholds must remember that many of the policies and assumptions they take for granted are, in fact, controversial or downright unpopular with large and critical constituencies across the country.

That the party has lost its focus and allowed this moment to be construed as “Manchin vs. the Democrats” instead of “big-tent Democrats vs. the increasingly authoritarian GOP” is telling of its approach to this perilous moment. Instead of Mitch McConnell trying to recruit moderate Democrats to his team, it’s time for Democrats to roll up their sleeves and start working over moderate Republicans — and their constituents.”

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