An article published in the Washington Monthly bears the unfortunate title, “What Democrats Still Don’t Get About Winning Back the White Working Class.” Your editor, Ann Heitland, has modified that to the title you see above this post because the article is well worth reading for it’s broader point: The debate over moderate versus progressive policies is irrelevant unless Democratic candidates can first establish a basic level of trust with more voters. The link to the full article appears below. Here are salient excerpts from its Conclusion:
It is critical to recognize that the new approach many Democratic candidates are taking cuts across the conventional centrist-progressive divide that now so obsesses the media and dominates the elite debate within the Democratic coalition. Some successful Democratic candidates will frame their policies in relatively moderate (though still clearly Democratic) terms, as Conor Lamb did in Pennsylvania, while others will campaign on more robust progressive terms. But the success of all the new Democratic candidates will ultimately depend on whether they can win recognition and acceptance as sincere and authentic representatives of their … districts, rather than on any differences in the exact details of their platforms and policies.
This is not to deny that there are indeed important issues that divide the Democratic left from the Democratic establishment—issues that cannot be avoided. The role of money in politics and the proper design of social and economic policies are significant areas of disagreement that the two sides can and must debate. But at the same time, it must be recognized that the differences that exist regarding these issues will not be the critical factors that decide the 2018 elections.
This will be a disappointment to those progressives and moderates who would like to see the elections validate their particular political perspective and strengthen their relative position within the Democratic Party. Yet both progressives and moderates must recognize that Democrats and the nation as a whole today are in a situation of unprecedented peril. In early 2008, if any American political scientist had been shown a list of the policies and pronouncements that Trump and the Republican Party have issued since 2016, they would have confidently asserted that they were not reading a description of the United States of America, but rather of the programs and views of the neo-fascist French National Front under the leadership of first Jean-Marie and then Marine Le Pen. They would then have sanctimoniously added that, of course, nothing like this could ever possibly occur in the U.S.,….
But the impossible has happened, and Democrats must try to reverse the trend. The way that it must be done is to accept that the traditional progressive-versus-centrist debate over platforms and programs will not be the decisive factor that will decide victory or defeat. Rather, in Trump-friendly districts, the central challenge Democrats face is to penetrate the conservative ideological cocoon and convincingly demonstrate to voters that Democrats can once again be their most effective and genuine advocates and representatives.