Democrats should not allow Republicans to define them

Campaigns generally wield broad brush strokes. Indeed, President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE is seeking to paint every Democrat in office or on the trail as a socialist or a reflection of Representative Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOcasio-Cortez plans visit to Kentucky despite being disinvited by GOP colleague Man arrested for threatening Dems, citing Omar comments Omar mocks Trump's claims of 'presidential harassment': 'Just lived through one!' MORE, whose comments on Israel and 9/11 continue to fuel protest and controversy. The question is will it work?

In fact, Republicans have so far been successful at painting Democrats in Congress as lurching left, despite the reality that their caucus expanded to the right. Their majority was secured by adding 40 seats in previously Republican held districts. Socialism may resonate in bright blue districts, but it dissuades in the purple ones. Even in the very blue districts where committed capitalists write up healthy campaign checks at swanky Democratic fundraisers in New York and Los Angeles, the inevitable question is why do people think that we are all a bunch of socialists?

ADVERTISEMENT

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars MORE sought to set the record straight during a CBS “60 Minutes” interview last Sunday when Lesley Stahl asked about the self-described socialists within her caucus. Pelosi interjected to say “like five people” comprise that group. When you can count the number of socialists on one hand, it is not exactly a Marxist cabal. Also, Stahl asked the question at a time when most of the socialists I know were watching “Game of Thrones” reruns before the season premiere.

So it did not exactly ignite the Communist International. Still, Pelosi understands how devastating it would be to her majority if the Republican paintbrush fills in the blanks with, well, blanks, or voters not affiliated with or committed to either party. As many have argued before, most notably political analyst Charlie Cook, the 2020 presidential election is locked in with 80 percent of the electorate. They either adore or abhor Donald Trump. It is the 20 percent in the middle who can still be persuaded that will determine the next White House occupant and majority in Congress.

“We have to hold the center,” Pelosi told Stahl in the interview. “We have to go down the mainstream.” It is a tall order setting a mainstream course in frothing rapids shifting far left and right. Managing the diversity among the members of her caucus, Pelosi has taken to telling her colleagues, “Our diversity is our strength. But our unity is our power.” She is right.

Indeed, the Republican campaign playbook will be to strip that power by attacking the diversity of Democrats, wrapping them all in the image of Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTlaib rallies in support of Green New Deal at Detroit town hall Ocasio-Cortez plans visit to Kentucky despite being disinvited by GOP colleague Overnight Energy: Flint residents can sue EPA over water crisis | Environmentalists see victory with Green New Deal blitz | March global temperatures were second hottest on record | EPA told to make final decision on controversial pesticide MORE or Ilhan Omar, and watching gleefully as the energy on the left threatens to consume moderate Democrats running in moderate districts with more progressive primaries in the next election.

“Define your opponent” is basic to any candidate strategy. Pelosi gets that. So does President Trump. The party with the bigger brush wins.

Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelDemocrats should not allow Republicans to define them An uncertain view from Israel Is President Trump a relentless character on Game of Thrones? MORE represented New York in Congress for 16 years and served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.