If you suffered through the Democratic
B-Team debate last night, you saw the far left on display. There were
Julian Castro’s calls to decriminalize
illegal immigration and abortions
for biological males, Elizabeth Warren’s calls to break up Big Tech (which
will probably be embraced by Tucker
Carlson), and Tulsi Gabbard’s spirited
defense of the Taliban. However, there was some truth told at the debate
last night and one such moment was Congressman Tim Ryan’s warning that Democrats
are in danger of losing blue-collar workers.
Rep. Ryan, who has represented northeastern Ohio since 2003,
said out loud what many of conservative pundits have been saying all along when
he warned that the Democratic Party is shifting so far to the left that it is in
danger of losing the moderate blue-collar workers that have propelled it to
power for decades. Ryan’s comments came in an answer to a question about
climate change in which he said that sweeping change would not be possible until
the Democrats were able to win beyond the enclaves of the coastal elites.
“We have a perception problem with the Democratic party,” Ryan
said. “We are not connecting to the working-class people in the very states
I represent, in Ohio, in the industrial Mid-West. We’ve lost all connection.”
“We’ve got to change the center of gravity of the Democratic
party from being coastal, elitist and Ivy league, which is the perception to
someone from the forgotten communities that have been left behind for the last
30 years,” he continued, “To get those workers back on our side, so we can say
we’re going to build electric vehicles, we’re going to build solar panels.”
“But if you want to beat Mitch McConnell, this better be a
working-class party,” he added. “If you want to go into Kentucky and take his
rear end out, and if you want to take Lindsey Graham out, you’ve got to have a
blue-collar party that can go into the textile communities in South Carolina.”
Congressman Ryan hits the nail squarely on the head here.
The biggest risk for the Democrats in 2020 is that they mistake antipathy from
voters for Trump for an embrace of the leftist agenda. Trump is unpopular, but
so are radical leftist ideas. Voters want a return to normalcy where they don’t
have to be outraged about events in Washington every day.
This is illustrated by the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans
took a “shellacking” in President Obama’s vernacular, but by and large it was
not the radical Democrats that voters sent to Washington. It was Democrats that
they perceived as moderates.
Sure, there were exceptions such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,
the infamous airhead bomb thrower, but she was elected in a very blue district
without a competitive Republican. The same goes for her cohort, Rashida Tlaib,
In contrast, it was moderates like Doug Jones (Ala.), Elissa Slotkin (Mich.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.), Abigail
Spanberger (Va.), Elaine Luria (Va.) and Mikie Sherrill (N.J.) who picked off
Republican seats in red states and districts. Kyrsten
Sinema, who won Jeff Flake’s Republican seat in Arizona, was considered a
radical by many but won by running a centrist campaign.
The working-class voters that Ryan wants his party to target
are the same voters that deserted the party for Donald Trump in 2016. The
working-class Rust Belt states provided the key to Trump’s surprise victory by
a very thin margin. Ryan warns the party that if they veer too far to the left,
they may make the same mistake twice.
It is telling that the most radical Democratic presidential
candidates come from deep blue states like California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and
New Jersey. Radicals can be successful in a closed environment but are less
likely to succeed on a national level or in swing states. Yet, it is in the
swing states where the election is decided.
The flip side is that Republicans have the same problem. Donald Trump’s policies have alienated a large part of his blue-collar base as well. The trade war is hitting farmers hard in the rural districts where Republicans typically do well. The trade war may also not play well with the blue-collar Rust Belt workers whose livelihoods are closely linked to foreign trade. A recent Fox News poll also revealed widespread opposition to the president’s immigration policies.
Internal Republican polling shows the president’s support evaporating in the Rust Belt. Worse for the president who ran behind other Republicans, Republicans lost seven of the eight statewide races in the Rust Belt in 2018.
Congressman Ryan’s words are a warning that should be heeded
by candidates of both parties. While candidates have to play to the political
activists in the primaries, the activists don’t represent the moderate voters
who decide the general election. What a candidate says in the primary can be
held against them in November.
If Democrats want voters to send the message, “You’re fired,”
to Donald Trump, they need to nominate a candidate who can connect with the
blue-collar moderates that are a vitally important part of the electorate. They
would do well to remember that the suburban moms and dads who decided the 2018
midterms don’t like radicals… in either party.