2018 Democratic strategy idea #2: Run on a bold, progressive agenda

Plenty of people who did not vote in the 2016 general election could be persuaded to vote for Dems in 2018

Priorities USA, a Democratic political organization that was aligned with the former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, has identified two groups of voters who did not vote for Clinton in 2016, but could be persuaded to vote for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. One group of voters is the Obama-Trump voters, who are voters who voted for then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in 2012, but voted for Donald Trump, a Republican, in 2016, despite Obama and Trump being virtually polar opposites from an ideological standpoint. The other group of voters is the “turnout voters”, who are voters who voted in the 2012 presidential election, but did not vote in the 2016 presidential election.

This article is about a potential Democratic 2018 midterm election strategy that focuses on the turnout voters described by Priorities USA.

Although Priorities USA didn’t give a full description of the typical “turnout voter”, the typical “turnout voter” is ideologically left-wing to far-left, is disillusioned about politics and/or government to some degree, strongly disapproves of Trump, is younger than the average American voter, and is not well-off economically. Additionally, Priorities USA regarded turnout voters as a secondary priority compared to Obama-Trump voters, although there is considerably more turnout voters than Obama-Trump voters.

One strategy that Democrats can use in the 2018 midterm elections is to run as anti-establishment progressives promoting a strongly left-wing agenda. This strategy would involve Democratic candidates for U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and non-federal offices on the ballot next year running their campaigns on a strongly left-wing domestic policy platform that contains, among other things:

  • Protecting traditional public schools and opposing school vouchers and other school privatization schemes
  • Allowing student debt holders to reduce their student loan debt, as well as make public college tuition-free for at least many students
  • Expanding, not weakening or repealing, the Affordable Care Act
  • Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour
  • Protecting and expanding women’s rights
  • Preserving and expanding environmental protections

However, there are drawbacks to this potential strategy.

First, most incumbent Democratic elected officials are, with some exceptions, not in any position to run a strongly progressive campaign for re-election for varying reasons. On a related note, the Democratic Party’s old guard has virtually zero interest in running on progressive values.

Second, there’s not that many candidates or potential candidates who are willing to run such a strategy, meaning that most of the people who would run for public office on such a strategy would be political outsiders with little or no prior political experience. One has to remember that the Democratic Party was effectively the party of Barack Obama for the past eight years or so, and Obama was not a progressive.

Third, the strategy of running as strong progressives runs counter to recent Democratic political orthodoxy of recent years, which has been to run campaigns aimed at suburban voters who are not strongly partisan (this is essentially the third potential Democratic midterm political strategy that I’ll write about at a later date).

For the past several years, the Democratic Party has been incapable of rallying the American people behind anything resembling Democratic and/or progressive values. Running on progressive ideas is one way that Democrats can try to rally the people against Donald Trump and his Republican cohorts and for a more progressive future.