The future of the Democratic Party is not nearly as bleak as some commentators would lead one to believe. The next generation of Democrats are currently working behind the scenes to bolster their resumes and build up their grassroots support. Current Democratic candidates for office like Randy Bryce and Andrew Gillum are laying the blueprint for what the next generation of Democrats will look like. It begins with authenticity.
Best known for his viral campaign ad, Bryce has branded himself as a “man’s man,” featuring his hard hat and working class story prominently. Bryce isn’t just another Democrat looking to make a name for himself unsuccessfully challenging a big name Republican. Bryce fully intends on unseating the increasingly unpopular Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFormer Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 No time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE and preserving ObamaCare for the people of Wisconsin. Bryce, with his tool belt and 1960 mustache looks every bit the part of union ironworker because he actually is a union ironworker. (Imagine that, running actual middle class people as candidates.)
The optical contrast between Bryce, the middle class warrior, and Ryan, the establishment politician, couldn’t have been cast any better than if Steven Spielberg himself handed them these roles. Bryce fits the part because he’s the real thing. He actually is the guy you want to have a beer with. One can only hope that Ryan falls into the trap and succumbs to a Michael Dukakis moment for all of the Twittersphere to see.
Gillum’s greatest strength is also his authenticity. Voters can relate to him, an often underappreciated aspect of any successful campaign. Gillum, the son of a bus driver and construction worker, has a chance to make history. He was the youngest member of the Tallahassee City Commission at the age of 23 and has served as mayor of Tallahassee for the last three years.
Gillum is running for governor of Florida, an office that no African American in Florida has ever held. That doesn’t appear to scare Gillum one bit. He has unapologetically criticized Republican Wisconsin Gov. Rick Scott and President Trump’s response to issues like immigration, race relations, and repealing and replacing ObamaCare. Gillum recently endorsed the Medicaid for all proposal by Bernie SandersBernie SandersStudy: Test detects signs of dementia at least six months earlier than standard method The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 Democrats see Christmas goal slipping away MORE.
A young progressive Democrat, Gillum has seen his support rise across large swaths of the state as he introduces himself to the electorate. His tried and true method of driving across the state speaking to voters has endeared him to many. Gillum has also openly and passionately spoken about the debate over removing Confederate statues and where he stands on the issue, explaining, “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to acknowledge that while we cannot change history, we do not have to glorify its ugliest moments with displays on public lands.”
In a conservative leaning state like Florida, calling for the removal of Confederate statues in the middle of an election is a risky move, especially for someone building up name recognition. Gillum isn’t shying away from decisions though. The former mayor has chosen to speak truth to power and ignore the political risks.
Bryce and Gillum represent the type of approachable and charismatic Democrat, that can win on the local, regional and national levels. Democratic candidates need to be just as comfortable on the campaign stump as they in a local bar or veterans center. Democrats need to win hearts before they can win minds. Our political system has become so toxic that voters inherently tune out opposing viewpoints. The only way to get voters to tune in is to convince them that Democrats aren’t the opposition.
Bryce and Gillum both have the ability to get voters to tune in to the conversation. Both are the type of candidates that the party would be smart to invest in and cultivate. Democrats can’t just expect another Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonIs the US capable of thinking strategically? Bob Dole: heroic, prickly and effective Biden on Bob Dole: 'among the greatest of the Greatest Generation' MORE or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Memo: Biden, bruised by Afghanistan, faces a critical test in Ukraine Is the US capable of thinking strategically? Juan Williams: GOP infighting is a gift for Democrats MORE to pop up out of nowhere. Democrats have to focus on recruiting and equipping candidates to become the future leaders of the party. The blueprint is already there. It begins with authenticity.
Michael Starr Hopkins is an attorney and former member of the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE. He regularly appears on Fox News and CNN to talk about national politics. You can follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.