By Cameron Erickson
If Democrats hope to have influence going forward, they must acknowledge hard realities. The Obama presidency was marred with defeats. In the midterms, and state-by-state, the Democratic Party was decimated. They lost nearly 1,000 state legislature seats. The high hopes Democrats had of taking back the House and Senate were scathed by actuality – Hillary Clinton lost and Donald Trump won. The presidential defeat reverberated down the ballot. Wisconsin, a state solidly in the camp of Democrats, went Republican for the first time since Ronald Reagan.
In hindsight, there is much to dissect and denial will not help.
As important as it is to acknowledge these truths, we also must chart a sustainable path going forward. As objectionable as some may believe Trump to be, a policy of bashing and resistance is not a proactive messaging platform. Democrats need to take back the microphone.
2016 was more often about identity politics and culture wars than it was about fiscal and economic issues. This can be attributed to several factors, and there are signs that this crisis of their own making worsened. Tom Perez recently stated that Democrats who oppose abortion are not welcome in the party. Rather than broadening the anemic base, he decided to shrink it even more.
He has since made inroads and invited pro-life groups to meet with him. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “of course” it’s possible to be “pro-life” and a Democrat with the support of the Democratic Party. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently said the party is “strongly pro-choice,” but remains a “big-tent party.”
Is it a big tent, though? On college campuses, students are often met with scorn and hatred if they express support for scientific principles. It is now in vogue to argue that there is an infinite amount of genders, despite the fact that one can only have an XY or XX chromosome, and can only have a penis or vagina. There are of course extreme outliers, and human sexuality is a complex thing, but to muddy the waters of sex by pushing pseudo-science in the name of political correctness is something, time and time again, the American people resoundingly reject.
But we can’t lose sight of what’s important. Most people care about bread-and-butter economic issues. Hillary Clinton lost the Rust Belt not only because she was marred in scandal and under FBI investigation, but also because she focused too much about identity politics and not enough on what really matters: as Bill Clinton famously said, the economy, stupid!
We can talk all we want about raising the minimum wage, and while that may score some easy points, we can’t forget about the real issues. Raising the minimum wage doesn’t address how Joe Six Pack who has lost his job at age 50 to globalization. Regardless of your thoughts on globalization or trade, Joe Six Pack is not a millennial. You aren’t going to retrain Joe – or Jane – Six Pack who is a factory worker in Ohio for some job in the high-tech sector.
I started Six Point Strategies, a boutique political consulting firm, because I believed the message emanating from the Democratic Party was pathetic, emasculated, and too focused on identity politics. This year, Republicans control 67 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers, and that’s not going to change until we acknowledge people’s genuine concerns instead of labeling them as some sort of “deplorable.” We want to help people succeed, prosper, and deliver by bringing true leadership to state legislatures and Washington.
We cannot get to the finish line by talking about genitalia, oppression, or identity politics. The path to victory is by winning – relentlessly winning – through real relationships. If we have to embrace gun-toting, abortion-hating, white male politicians to get there, then so be it. Otherwise, the Democratic party will be a beacon of the past. This is the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Harry Truman. This is not the party of Jeremy Corbyn, Fidel Castro, and Linda Sarsour.
In the international arena, Nikki Haley is doing a tremendous job fighting for human rights, freedom, and democracy. Her first time chairing the Security Council coincided with a stark decision: to call out Syria’s despicable human rights violations and use of sarin gas in public for the whole world to see instead of in a private meeting, as requested by Syrian government authorities and their allies on the counsel.
This may have been due to a strong moral standing, or due to the value she places on human life. It may have even been due to her strong Christian faith. A recent ABC News poll found that eighty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian. This does not include many other religious Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths who regularly attend services. Faith is incredibly important to many Americans, and the Democratic Party must acknowledge this fact rather than belittle religion.
If we’re going to move forward as a country, we’ve got to do it together by broadening the base — not by drawing lines to shrink it. America doesn’t belong in 16th place. We should be number one on healthcare, education, and the economy. We should not be here to punish success, but rather to empower it by creating jobs and helping families build prosperity for the next generation. We shouldn’t just feel good about America when we’re told to, we should inherently feel good about America because, despite her imperfections, she is the embodiment of our ideas and philosophy that together make us a great nation.
We can make the Democratic Party great again, but it starts with us. It starts by embracing who we are and those who disagree with us. If we embrace an oppression Olympics instead of empowering each other, it will lead to a tragic race to the bottom. Let’s work together to build a better and more prosperous future for everyone — regardless of faith, ethnicity, and creed — because when we’re indivisible, we’re invincible.