**Before I begin, keep in mind that this is not one of my typical articles because the dated nature of the subject rushed its writing somewhat. I normally like to take my time contemplating, writing, rewriting, and choosing each word as carefully as a jeweler chooses a diamond. But with this article I felt like the subject had a fast-approaching expiration date. Right now Hillary, the Democrats, and Trump's election victory are at the forefront of peoples' minds, and I don't know how much longer that will last. All of this being said, I hope you'll find the quality of this essay to be on par with all the others I've written before it.**
Without question these past two elections have been rough for Democrats. 2014 was a sucker punch, and the election a few days ago was a complete knockout with Republicans taking the Presidency, the House, and the Senate. To add insult to injury, not only did Republicans sweep all three major centers of power, but they did so with the help of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania— blue collar states that in the past have been reliably Democratic.
This should tell us something obvious: The Democratic Party is in trouble, and in the days that have immediately proceeded the presidential election dozens of opinions have been offered as to why. But as someone who has worked for the DNC, worked for a Democratic presidential campaign, and whose friends and associates are split almost evenly between right and left, there are 5 easily solvable problems I believe liberals can address in order to get the Democratic Party winning again in 2018 and 2020.
1. The Progressive Wing Needs To Take Over.
We need our own version of a Tea Party. Period. The Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders crowd needs to rise up and demand progressive principles of our candidates, along with unseating current incumbents who have not upheld these principles their entire careers. The so-called "centrists" (or more condescendingly, the "pragmatic progressives") have had long enough to show us what they can do, and it turns out they have done very little. Get people like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi out of the way, and bring people like Tammy Duckworth and Tulsi Gabbard up to the forefront. It's time to clean house.
2. Stop Putting Up Candidates Like Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. She was elitist, establishment, and corrupt (oh so corrupt). There were plenty of liberals that didn't like her, and it wasn't because they were sexist (which is such a tired trope), it was because she was the embodiment of everything despised about Washington. We were told over and over again that her rival in the primaries, Bernie Sanders, was great but that he wasn't the "practical" choice. Hillary Clinton, we were told, was "more electable".
Turns out she wasn't.
Again I bring up the fact that she lost the traditionally Democratic working class states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. But ask yourself why she lost those states. She lost those states because she had a record of constantly throwing labor unions under the bus, as well as a record of endorsing free trade agreements that saw many of America's manufacturing jobs shipped overseas. And both of those things did not bode well with the working men and women of the "rust belt".
So when it comes to looking for presidential candidates in the future, again, look for the Elizabeth Warrens of the Democratic Party. Look for the Lawrence Lessigs. Look for the Tammy Duckworths. Look for the Tulsi Gabbards. Look for the Bernies. Look for people who won't sell out labor unions, who won't sell their souls to big banks and corporations, and who won't take money from foreign despots. It really isn't a tall order.
Furthermore, (and this ties in to #1), the Democratic Party needs to get rid of every single Clinton-loyalist that works for it. Purge. Anything attached to the Clintons has to go. The name "Debbie Wasserman Schultz" especially should never be uttered again in any favorable light.
3. Listen To Folks Who Live In Rural Areas Instead Of Trashing Them. They Do Have Legitimate Grievances.
It's so easy to just brush off and stereotype people who live in rural areas— especially in the South— as being obese gun-totin', evolution-denyin', WWE-watchin' rednecks who pray to Baby Jeezus and St. Earnhardt of Nascar before every fried meal. But it's also wrong. So very wrong.
Do southerners, and people who live in other rural areas of the country, hurt themselves with their own social conservatism? Sure. But that doesn't mean that "country folk" are stupid. And treating them like they're stupid isn't going to get them to see our side of things. So quit it. There are obviously legitimate cultural differences between rural and urban areas that are certainly worthy of another discussion, but believe it or not, these people really have been disenfranchised. At least economically.
The existences of most of America's small towns normally revolve around one large industry (e.g. a mining company, a power plant, a factory, etc.), which employs most people in said small towns and allows for small businesses to spring up around that one industry; the Democratic Party needs to realize that it's been just as complicit as Republicans when it comes to outsourcing jobs, and by doing that, killing a lot of these small towns as a result. If the party fails to realize this, then it will never grasp why a lot of people in these rural areas feel that they've been overlooked by our nation's political elite. The reason Donald Trump was able to garner so much support in these rural areas wasn't because of the Left's lazy conventional answer of "sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia" bla bla bla. The reason Donald Trump was able to get so much support in rural areas—including, again, the Democratic "rust belt"— was because he acknowledged the economic disenfranchisement of small town America in a way that neither Democrat nor Republican has in a very long time.
If Democrats want to win again, we have to stop making fun of the people at Walmart and start getting to know the people at Walmart. Our candidates need to spend more time with farmers and truckers and less time with Jay Z and Katy Perry.
4. Stop With The Identity Politics. Seriously.
Besides neglect of rural voters being a reason why Democrats lost, a second reason why 2016 slipped through our fingers was because of identity politics. Especially as manifested on college campuses. Washington Post ran a story saying that college students are out of touch with the rest of the country. And you know what? Washington Post is right. The ridiculous protests at Yale and Mizzou last year over Halloween costumes proved as much.
Liberalism's obsession with social justice is cancer. The sooner the Democratic Party is rid of political correctness (yes it does exist), the better. When people see the absurdity of Social Justice Warrior hysteria, they think "I guess that's what the Left is all about these days." That association will kill us.
Enough with the trigger warnings. Enough with "safe spaces". To college liberals everywhere: quit being babies. No one cares about the "injustices" of microaggressions and hurt feelings. "Cultural appropriation" is not a thing, nor is "stare rape", nor are the 50,000 genders you made up. The Democratic Party needs to stop coddling contenders in the Oppression Olympics and instead tell them to grow up and stop hurting liberalism.
5. Run On Issues That The Grassroots Left & Right Agree On.
I know that the standard playbook for elections is for both candidates to harp on divisive issues that get people to the polls out of fear. But dumb naive me thinks that you could get just as many people— if not more— to the polls by exciting them rather than scaring them. How does the Democratic Party go about exciting voters? By bringing up issues that people from both sides of the aisle agree on.
Federal marijuana legalization is extremely popular with social liberals and non-social conservatives. So why aren't Democrats shouting that from the rooftops? I've heard conservatives and liberals voice a desire to get money out of politics by pushing for campaign finance reform. Why on earth isn't the entire Democratic Party leading the charge for that?
These unifying issues are opportunities that, if taken advantage of, could help Democrats win again. These unifying issues would make millions of people enthusiastic about voting liberal. And the best part is, not only would the party be strengthening its image in the eyes of the American public, but by advocating common sense solutions to problems that both conservatives and liberals agree on, we would be bringing Americans together instead of tearing them apart.
There have been a myriad of explanations for why our loss a few days ago happened... some of them right-on-point, others way off the mark. But the truth is, if we really want to know who is responsible for our failure in 2016 (and in 2014), we need only look in the mirror. It's us. We're the problem. But there is hope in that. For if the problem lies with us, it is completely within our power to fix it.