I’ve been upset with Democrats ever since they abandoned Howard Dean’s “50 State Strategy” that worked so well in 2006. Rather than building on a winning idea, Democrats quickly declared victory when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, and then couldn’t understand why they lost over 1,000 seats nationwide during his two terms in office.
Democrats are often ignoring moderate or mildly conservative candidates in deep red states, occasionally swooping in with funding when they see blood in the water. A great example of this is John Bel Edwards‘ victory in Louisiana back in 2015. Edwards is a conservative Democrat who won against a very unpopular David Vitter, but the state legislature is still completely controlled by right-wing Republicans.
Louisiana, like much of the South, has a history of voting for Democrats. It wasn’t until the Southern Strategy was launched to pull away anxious white voters to the Republican Party that this changed. The DNC basically retreated to liberal bastions on the coasts, and abandoned their voters in the rest of the country, including many minorities.
It’s been estimated that millions of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 stayed home in 2016. A recent analysis in The New York Times puts the exact figure at 4.4 million — and approximates that an outsized number of those non-voters (36 percent) were black.
Black voter turnout fell seven percentage points in the last election, plummeting from 66.6 percent in 2012 to 59.6 percent in 2016, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Many analysts say a natural drop-off was expected in the post-Barack Obama era. But the 2016 voter turnout for African-Americans was not just lower than the Obama years, it was even slightly lower than the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. (NPR)
Democrats are failing to connect not only with black voters, but working-class voters across the country. This has to change, before we end up with another four years of Trump.
A simple strategy is to run moderate Democrats in red states, progressive Democrats in blue states. Expecting some version of Elizabeth Warren to win in Alabama, or a John Bel Edwards in Hawaii simply won’t work.