- Conservative pundits and “Never Trump” Republicans have consistently offered unsolicited advice to Democrats about who their presidential nominee should be and what policies they should support.
- But these pundits lave out that many of the ideas they say Democrats should abandon are popular.
- So instead of offering Democrats advice, maybe they should try and fix their own party.
- Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesperson for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
Out of power in the White House, the Senate, and the courts, Democrats are playing a lot of defense these days. It’s nothing new. Since the rise of Reagan, liberal has become a bad word, and liberal candidates like Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale were trounced in past presidential elections.
Republicans capitalized on this opening and employed a hardline approach on issues over 40 years to pull the country to the right and to keep winning, even when they’re in the minority.
To compete and win in the post-Reagan era, the Democratic Party had to move closer to the center. Candidates like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton rose to the top in large part because of their strong centrist appeal. Joe Biden’s allure as a candidate, too, is that he fits that bill and is arguably the best positioned to swing the most voters, potentially including some Republicans.
This year, Democrats are desperate to replace Trump, but the party is anxious. There are voices in its own caucus and the moderate wing of the Republican Party telling Democrats what to do.
These voices say Democrats need to run a candidate that fits their policy preferences. They should abandon impeachment. They should moderate their positions on healthcare, universal childcare, or immigration instead of appealing to the party’s left-leaning segment. They should adopt GOP policy positions to win over Republican voters because Trump abandoned those ideas or is personally uncouth to them.
Some of these pundits say Democrats should even nominate a GOP running mate in order to win.
Given the Democratic Party’s years of setbacks and self-inflicted wounds while the country marched steadily rightward, these are understandably tempting arguments, but going right is wrong.
Don’t come into our house
I never see Democrats say that the GOP needs to run more candidates they can vote for. It’s as if moderate, “Never Trump” Republicans would rather Democrats fit their policy preferences instead of fixing their own party.
But many of the Democrats’ ideas that these new advisers are against are in fact popular with the electorate. Among the American public, 83% support background checks for gun owners, 65% want to protect preexisting conditions as Republicans chip away at the Affordable Care Act, 68% of Americans (including 42% of Republicans) also support a public healthcare option, and an overwhelming majority of the nation, including in swing states, supports improving the country’s infrastructure.
So perhaps the GOP — and those Republican pundits who are freely offering suggestion to Democrats — needs to fix their own party first before they try and dictate to Democrats. Here are a few suggestions.
First, try and pass some of those popular ideas instead of focusing on unpopular legislation that benefits a small, vocal minority of the GOP. Republicans controlled the executive branch and Congress for two years and did nothing to address rising drug prices, infrastructure, or gun violence. On the other hand, they did pass an unpopular tax cut that has failed to deliver economic growth. And now it’s even easier to get background checks and infrastructure done with the Democratic House, but still nothing.
Second, stop using racism and xenophobia as a strategy. There’s a reason Trump was all too happy to bully the NFL, bash Puerto Rico, and argue that there were “very fine people on both sides.” He and his party are the thought leaders of fear-mongering, pandering to white nationalists, and limiting voting access among minorities and young people.
And finally, meet your conscience and stand up to President Trump. Republicans continue to defend him after he has abandoned so many of the values and policy positions they used to stand for. There are a handful of principled, honest conservatives who publicly break with Trump, but if the elected continue to leave him unchecked, he and his acolytes will take over the GOP for good.
Get your own house in order
The fringe of the Republican Party – which seems to be in more control each day – has lost the ability to compromise. No wonder some in the GOP, seeing the intractability of their party under the rule of Trump, are hoping Democrats can help save them.
While electoral math went against the Democrats in the last go around, we shouldn’t forget that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Nationally and in swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, there are more Democratic registered voters than Republican. The arc of history is bending against the GOP, and the Democrats will be in power soon enough.
So instead of trying to force the Democratic party into your ideological box, get your own house in order.