Here’s something cheerful that Paul Waldman wrote a couple of days ago. At least some Democrats have stopped talking about “reaching across the aisles” and “working with Republicans” and “moving to the center” and what not and are focusing on appealing to the base. In other words, they are going on offense instead of perpetually playing defense. For example, Rep. Swalwell of California wrote an op-ed in USA Today proposing some pretty tough bans on some semiautomatic weapons. Not all, which is what I advocate, but some.
Instead, we should ban possession of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons, we should buy back such weapons from all who choose to abide by the law, and we should criminally prosecute any who choose to defy it by keeping their weapons. The ban would not apply to law enforcement agencies or shooting clubs.
This is just one congressman, but for decades you couldn’t find an elected Democrat who would even suggest such a thing. The prevailing strategy has been to reassure gun owners that they aren’t interested in confiscating anyone’s guns; they just want some sensible measures to increase safety.
Swalwell has apparently reached the point at which he says screw the gun nuts; they won’t compromise. This is what we want, so let’s ask for it. Waldman continues,
The NRA and Republicans in Congress are even opposed to universal background checks, which are supported by over 90 percent of the public. They take that position because they’ve made a calculation that there isn’t much point in trying to look reasonable or win over those who might disagree with them. Instead, the way you get what you want is to follow this formula:
- Take maximal positions that excite your base
- Win elections
- Pass bills you like and kill bills you don’t like
This isn’t just about guns. Democrats are now starting to propose extremely progressive ideas on all kinds of other issues, like Medicare for all (or most, at least) and even a federal job guarantee. They know these ideas will find no support among Republicans, but they no longer care. They remember well how Barack Obama crafted a health care plan with roots in the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney’s reform in Massachusetts, then spent months trying to convince Republicans in Congress to come to a compromise with him, only to be strung along and ultimately get zero Republican votes in either house.
Finally. A clue emerges.
I also think that, ironically, this approach is likely to appeal to moreÂ swing voters, not fewer. Democrats have no idea how much they don’t stand for anything any more. See, for example, “They Voted for Obama, Then Went for Trump. Can Democrats Win Them Back?” in the New York Times. It’s estimated that 9 percent of voters who went for Obama in 2008 and 2012 ended up voting for Trump in 2016. Among white voters who had never been to college, it was 22 percent. What do these interviews with Obama-to-Trump voters tell us?
One, they aren’t politics nerds. They aren’t focused on the midterms yet. One assumes they are not big newspaper readers.
Two, a lot of these people were lifelong Democratic voters, but the “D” after her name wasn’t enough reason for them to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Several of them had misgivings about Trump, but they had more misgivings about Clinton. Put another way, they didn’t really like either candidate but disliked Trump less.
I think this lady needs to be listened to:
Several voters said they chose Mr. Trump for the same reason they chose Mr. Obama: a deep craving for change and disgust with both political parties.
Charlotte Griffin, the mayor of Bear Grass, a town of about 80 people in eastern North Carolina, said her vote for Mr. Trump was more an act of desperation than a positive political choice. She had grown furious with the national political class — and what she saw as its wealth, ignorance of ordinary people’s lives and inability to get anything done. It was the first time she’d chosen a Republican in 50 years of voting. Her county, Martin County, flipped to Mr. Trump after choosing Mr. Obama twice.
“Did I really like Trump? No. I still don’t,” said Ms. Griffin in Bear Grass in January. “But at least I thought we might move. We were in a stalemate. We were at dead center zero. We were just sitting there spinning our wheels.”
This is a point I keep making that keeps falling on deaf ears:
Counties like Ms. Griffin’s that flipped from Mr. Obama to Mr. Trump have lost ground to the rest of the nation, even more so than the counties that have been solidly Republican. Forty years ago, workers in the flip counties earned 85 cents for every dollar earned by workers in the Democratic strongholds. By 2016, the ratio had fallen to 77 cents.
Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t publish a new “study” saying that the only difference between Trump voters and not-Trump voters is racism. Nobody, including me, is saying that racism isn’t a factor, especially in regard to the immigration issue. But when you look at the sliver of voters whose votes made the difference between Obama winning and Clinton losing, the primary issue is the economy, stupid. The economy may be okay overall, but it just isn’t working for a lot of folks the way it used to. And neither party has been addressing that.
Democrats also ought to be listening to this guy:
Brad Zeigler, 68, a retired police chief in Warren County, Ill., said he has not liked anything Mr. Trump has done.
“I thought maybe he’ll listen to his advisers and they’ll contain him,” said Mr. Zeigler, who, like his county, voted for Mr. Obama twice before choosing Mr. Trump. “But that hasn’t happened.”
He said he is furious at himself for having voted for Mr. Trump and is open to voting for Democrats this fall, even though the party no longer really speaks to him.
“I’m concerned about our environment,” he said. “I’m concerned about people’s rights. I sound like a far-left person and I’m not!”
Instead, Mr. Zeigler said he feels politically homeless.
“The Republicans are about money and big business and the Democrats have lost their way. They are not taking care of that core group they know is out there.”
Democrats lost their way in large part because they adopted the strategy of being conciliatory to the Right and appealing to the center, which left a huge portion of the electorate with no voice at all, anywhere. It’s gotten so bad that a guy has to apologize for being concerned about rights and the environment — I’m not far left!
Just do the right thing, Democrats. Be true to your own values. Take the stands on issues you actually believe in, not what you think you have to settle for because of the Right. People will follow.