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  • Jan Flynn

Democrats, Time to Line Up

We may have to compromise if we want to save the nation

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Full disclosure: this post is written by a liberal, left-leaning Democrat who wants to see Trump defeated more than she wants to win Powerball. If you are a fan of our Current Occupant, I suggest you read no further. We’re not going to change each other’s minds, and I have concern for your blood pressure.

There are eleven days until the Iowa caucuses

And it’s still anybody’s guess. That’s okay at this point; the Iowa voters are famous for taking their time to make their decisions, and the caucus rules actually promote them keeping their options open in case their first pick doesn’t meet the threshold in their precinct.

But with so much at stake, it does seem things should be a little less muddled at this point in the primary campaign. And with three of the front runners —Sanders, Warren, and Klobuchar — tied up in the Senate impeachment trial and the attention of the nation either riveted or revolted by that spectacle, the odds of the Democratic field tightening up in some rational way are starting to look like my Powerball chances.

That’s not the scary part

What’s got my stomach in knots (apart from the aforementioned impeachment trial, or what’s supposed to be passing for one) is that the Dems, always an eclectic bunch, could keep on splintering right through the primaries and into the election itself.

There are Bernie supporters who can’t stomach the thought of voting for Biden if he wins the nomination. There are Warren fans who feel the same — and maybe they used to be okay with Bernie as a second pick, but not so much now that Mom and Dad are fighting.

And Hillary is now sniping from the sidelines. I deeply wish things had gone her way in 2016, but I fail to see how her taking potshots at Bernie helps anything.

Meanwhile, there are moderates and centrists who would rather burn down their own houses than vote for either of those candidates. Those voters might just sit the whole thing out, or even vote for the incumbent.

Trying to get Dems to unify is like herding cats, it is often said. But we are coming to a time when we cats had better get in line. Because the alternative is watching our nation go so far off the rails in the next four years that it may be unrecoverable, at least not in any form we recognize.

If we want to beat Trump, we have to meet in the middle

Yes, I said middle, and yes, that means what you think it does. If you’re a lefty like me, that might be a bitter pill to swallow. You may be convinced that the last thing this country needs is another middle-of-the-road, status quo Beltway insider.

You may be crying out for a visionary who can galvanize those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, someone with a platform that includes Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, campaign reform, an end to border detention centers, and an overhaul of our Dickensian prison system — for starters.

Right there with you, my friend.

But here’s the thing. We are in a dogfight where the rules are rigged against us. I urge you to take a look at the recent New York Times think piece by Vox’s Ezra Klein (“Why Democrats Still Have to Appeal to the Center, but Republicans Don’t,” January 24). He lays out in terms more disturbingly clear than I’ve read anywhere else just how tilted the electoral playing field has become:

To win power, Democrats don’t just need to appeal to the voter in the middle. They need to appeal to voters to the right of the middle. When Democrats compete for the Senate, they are forced to appeal to an electorate that is far more conservative than the country as a whole. Similarly, gerrymandering and geography means that Democrats need to win a substantial majority in the House popular vote to take the gavel. “Why Democrats Still Have to Appeal to the Center but Republicans Don’t,” Ezra Klein, New York Times, January 24, 2020

Since our system, as Klein puts it, “counts states rather than votes,” Republicans enjoy a disproportionate advantage. Wyoming, with a population of 578,000, has the same number of senators as New York with its 20.1 million. Add gerrymandering and the electoral college to the mix, and it starts to make sense why Democrats control only the House, while Republicans have the White House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and more than half the country’s Governorships. Klein writes:

And yet Democrats haven’t just won more votes in the House elections. They won more votes over the last three Senate elections, too. They won more votes in both the 2016 and 2000 presidential elections. “Why Democrats Still Have to Appeal to the Center but Republicans Don’t,” Ezra Klein, New York Times, January 24, 2020

Republicans can lean hard to the right, but we must keep our center

The very diversity that could make the Democrats the hope of the future also means that in order to win, we can’t follow the Republican playbook and appeal to our left flank at the expense of moderates. We simply can’t afford to.

The Republican party has become less and less diverse in the past three decades, while the Dems have become even more so. That’s a good thing, but it means that winning the primaries and then the election means appealing to voters across a wide spectrum. And that means those of us on what we like to think of as the leading edge of the party will have to lean into the middle.

And I don’t mean we’ll just have to hold our nose and vote for someone we’re not wild about; we’ll have to get on board with whoever the Democratic candidate turns out to be and shout that name to the rooftops. In order to win in 2020, we must win big, up and down the ticket.

If we pull together and pull this off, the real work can begin

Our problems will hardly be over if we win in 2020. There is much damage to repair, on every level and in every aspect of our country. And yes, I believe we need a reformed vision to lead America out of its current malaise and toward a hopeful, sustainable, and peaceful future.

But none of that will happen if we refuse to compromise or unite.

I’m not asking you to abandon your principles. But I am asking you to consider what’s at stake, and to prioritize digging our nation out from under the rubble that’s suffocating it right now.

I know who I’d like to see in the Oval Office a year from now

If that’s the person who wins the Democratic nomination, then yay. But I herewith pledge wholehearted support for whoever ends up becoming the candidate. That includes Sanders, Biden, Warren, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, or somebody’s Aunt Matilda who gets written in and grabs all the traction.

Assuming Aunt Matilda is a functioning, sane adult who meets the qualifications and could pass a high school civics exam (which would put her far ahead of the Current Occupant), I will not only vote for her, I will festoon my yard with her signs, drape my car with her stickers, volunteer for phone banking, and get on the bus to go get out the vote.

Please remember what’s at stake. When the time comes, let’s all get on board the same train.

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