Elections National

Democrats Are a Big Tent Party, But We’re Not A Party of Hostages

The political stakes for 2024 are very high — abortion rights, voting rights, action on the climate emergency, democracy, freedom. To that end, Democrats really do need the biggest tent possible to keep the White House, take back the House, and expand our margins in the Senate. It’s a tall order, especially when Democrats still need to expand their voters.

This WaPo piece — Dwindling Blue Dog Democrats look to stage a comeback for moderates (Gift Article) — caught my eye today because it strikes me that there is something really difficult about this Blue Dog project.

“The three have stayed away from partisan attacks and kept their focus on attracting more members to join their ranks. They have begun to speak more actively about what the group stands for, having conversations on the House floor or sitting down to breakfast with members interested in joining. While they are sticking to their fiscal stability and national security roots, they are working to define what those principles can mean in this modern political environment — arguing that tackling supply chain reforms, strengthening cybersecurity and addressing the growing housing issue all fall under those two categories.

The Blue Dogs also want to address climate change by supporting more alternative energy measures. But they say Democrats have often missed the nuance of the conversation by siding with liberals who push for immediate change and criticize moderates — and in turn, the communities they represent — when they push back against the all-or-nothing perspective on policymaking.”

First — it is undeniable that voters are grumpy and have been for quite some time. In recent cycles, voters are willing to abandon whatever norms or typical narratives there were and are absolutely willing to vote for people who recognize they are not being well served by the government and speak to them in terms of specific help. Democrats are winning on issues like health care, criminal justice reform, taxing the wealthy, community infrastructure investments, and more. Republicans win by calling Democrats socialists and promising to fight socialists. It doesn’t seem at all smart to narrow a larger, winning (mostly) agenda to the concerns of rural Americans. How is it that we never figure out how improved health care or community infrastructure also work for rural Americans? American taxpayers are a river of subsidies to rural Americans — how is it that we haven’t figured out how to get more of those subsidies in the hands of smaller farmers or how to keep rural hospitals open or to build more affordable housing or ensuring safe bridges and roads or making sure hard work delivers a liveable wage, or affordable education, or preparing for future climate change? There are lots of places to agree, but I would imagine that these conservative Dems have to reckon with constituents who absolutely want all of the things, but who do not want to help cities and states where all of their kids are fleeing.

Which is to say — we ALL have a ton of common goals here. And one thing I’d like reporters talking to conservative Dems to ask them about is why their communities are not interested in these things. How is it that they need to put forward some of the worst of conservatism — I mean, if you are talking about fiscal responsibility and tax cuts in the same sentence, then you are not a serious legislator. Period.

And can we stop talking about the “Far Left” in Congress? That is literally not a thing in American politics. Even our most famous Socialist — Bernie Sanders — can find enough reason to caucus and try to move legislation with Democrats. And even then, both Bernie and AOC are slower in political spirit to FDR than to Fidel Castro.

For people who want to work with others, it sure seems that they are not especially interested in meeting the rest of their caucus where they are. Democrats are interested in the many and that is tough to see with these Blue Dogs. Again — Americans need their government to work for them, not just for the wealthy and I can’t imagine that there is not a lifetime of places where we can all agree.

Joe Biden won his election by making real and serious promises to fix some long-standing issues that impact not just his base, but many Americans. Conservative Dems disrupting the President’s agenda — and let’s be clear, neither the Dem center or left is undermining any part of the President’s agenda — for their own re-elect chances is not about a Big Tent. It’s just hostage-taking.

I’m for the biggest tent possible — we need Democrats who will defend our Democracy and who will make government work for real people again. But that happens with rational agenda setting and meeting on those places where we have common ground. 3 people should not have the power to undermine the President’s promise to millions of Americans underwater with college debt. We need leadership that will represent their districts but also support Democratic values and platforms. We can’t relive the recent American history when the insistence on fiscal austerity for middle-class Americans all while shoveling money into the bank accounts of wealthy Americans. We have far too much work to get done to have to trim our sails for those who haven’t quite gotten that we are all community here.

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