GQ: The Democratic Party Is Waging a War Against Its Very Own Base
GQ – May 30, 2019
At a critical juncture before the 2020 elections, the leadership of the Democratic Party is, perplexingly, abandoning key constituencies of its base, including young people, women, and people of color, as well as the policies that fire them up. In chasing a narrow swath of white swing voters, the leadership has ignored a broader coalition of voters who have delivered blue victories time and time again. Not only that—at times, it’s actively antagonizing them.
Even though the multiracial coalition that re-elected Obama in 2012 and stayed home in 2016 was large enough to change the outcome of the election, the Democratic leadership has focused on voters who swung from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. Party leaders have also taken to kneecapping up-and-coming progressives. Earlier this year, the DCCC—the party’s House campaigns arm—announced that it will blacklist firms that work with primary challengers, despite their delivering exciting new talent, reflective of its base, like congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
This has led them to positions at odds with the values of the Democratic electorate. In the very same week that Alabama passed a full-fledged abortion ban, in what appears to be a coordinated, Republican-led attack on women’s reproductive rights in several states, DCCC chairwoman Cheri Bustos planned a fundraiser for Illinois congressman Dan Lipinski, an anti-choice, anti-LGBT Democrat who opposed the Affordable Care Act and refused to endorse President Barack Obama in 2012. In his safe blue district, he faces a primary challenge from mainstream, pro-choice progressive Marie Newman, who lost many of her consultants after the DCCC announced its blacklist.
This orientation toward the middle instead of values and vision is demobilizing. Voters who are defined as “moderate” often hold a mix of extreme left and right positions. When the party machine prioritizes incumbents and moderates over its principles, voters become reluctant to identify as Democrats, and reluctant to vote.
Take, for example, the party’s treatment of black women. Black women are a powerful voting segment for the party, and yet they receive pennies to the dollar in resources spent by campaigns. They are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, and the current health-care system is failing this community, and yet this is seldom mentioned by Democratic candidates.
Resting on its civil rights–era support for black communities, the party is taking this community for granted. Now, the slip in black support for Democrats is beginning to show—voter file data from 2018 shows that black men, in particular, are increasingly identifying as independents. It’s not just black votes they have to worry about: The right has been working for a long time to make inroads among Latinx voters and hold power in the face of demographic change.