To win in 2018, Democrats must resist moving further left

To win in 2018, Democrats must resist moving further left
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Senators Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Tenn.)  and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump keeps tight grip on GOP McSally to back Trump on emergency declaration Flake: Biden 'strikes fear in a lot of Republicans' MORE's (R-Ariz.) surprise retirements and their decision to forcefully speak out against Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE’s behavior have created an unprecedented and unexpected opportunity for Democrats across the country.

Independent and moderate Republican voters are becoming increasingly dissatisfied, to put it mildly, with Donald Trump and the sycophantic Republicans who are molding the party in his image. Make no mistake; the GOP is becoming the party of Trump and all the conspiracy theories, nativism and racial divisiveness that come along with him. The party has become a glorified comment section and it seems to be getting worse by the day.

But that doesn't mean the state of the Democratic Party is much better.

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Democrats continue to lose election after election and have no shortage of excuses for why that is. Setting aside the qualms over the Electoral College and potential Russian interference for a moment, it should greatly concern every Democrat in the country that more people in traditionally blue states like Pennsylvania and Michigan thought Donald J. Trump was still a more attractive option for president than an experienced former secretary of State and United States senator.

There should be sirens going off in the head of every Democratic strategist in America when it comes to the state of the party's "brand" after the 2016 election. It may be hard for many to accept, but maybe the direction in which the Democratic Party is headed is just as politically unappealing as the GOP's, if not worse.

Democrats have an opportunity to tap into the frustrations and disgust that independents and moderate Republicans currently feel toward the new Republican Party under Donald Trump. But if my party continues to shift left on every major issue, demonize centrist and conservative Democrats, or ignore rural America, we'll never take advantage of this historic opportunity.

The Jeff Flakes of the world will never become Democrats if the party’s only coherent message calls for “free this” and “free that” or if its most recognizable leader is a 76 year-old socialist from Vermont or an ultra-liberal Harvard professor from Massachusetts.

I’m a lifelong Democrat and fairly progressive on almost every issue. But I'm a progressive who likes to win elections. And I know we will never see progressive policies put into action unless we change the path in which the Democratic Party is currently headed.

Our party would be wise to take a step back and consider the opportunity that is being placed at its feet. We should firmly reject efforts to turn the Democratic Party into an entirely coastal and urban party dominated by the far-left wing, where we demand every candidate support single-payer health care, $15 minimum wage and free college for everyone.

Instead, I believe the path to success requires us to go back to being a big-tent, center-left party; one that resists the urge to grow government so that we can balance the budget, eliminate debt and invest in the future. We should strive to be the party of rural America again. But first, we’ll need to actually show up and understand a culture that many in our party too often treat condescendingly. We should once again be a party that is home to proud people of faith, filled with candidates from all across America who aren’t afraid to talk about it.

Instead of pursuing the unrealistic goal of single-payer healthcare in 2017, we should be laser-focused on putting a stop to the opioid epidemic that is literally killing off thousands of young people every day in small towns across the country.

We must demonstrate a priority and commitment to jobs and opportunities for American citizens who work hard and play by the rules.

Instead of looking to figures like Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersAlan Dershowitz: In defense of Chelsea Clinton O'Rourke: Decisions on late-term abortions 'best left to a woman and her doctor' CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Warren introduces petition to end the Electoral College MORE (D-Mass.) to move the party forward, we should be listening to Governors like Steve Bullock of Montana and Roy Cooper of North Carolina who actually won elections in red states.

If we want to win again, Democrats must get out of the bubbles of New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and listen to the rest of America again.

An old boss once told me, "Winners govern and losers yell at their television."

I’m tired of watching Donald Trump’s new Republican Party fail to govern and I’m especially tired of yelling at my television.

Control of Congress is now within reach for Democrats in 2018. We may never get this kind of opportunity again. The ball is in our court. Let’s not blow it.

Tyler Jones is a South Carolina Democratic strategist and founder of SPEAK Strategic. He is the former executive director of the South Carolina House Democratic Caucus and served as Governor Martin O’Malley’s state director in South Carolina for the 2016 presidential campaign. He can be reached at tyler@speakstrategic.com.