While some say Bernie Sanders is a long shot to win the Democratic nomination (let alone the general election), he has a plan to win it all. This strategy isn’t a new idea, but it is one that Democrats have abandoned in recent years, and it has proven disastrous. In 2010, Republicans took control of the House again after just 4 years of Democratic rule and in 2014, voters gave Republicans the Senate as well.
Yesterday, Bernie Sanders appeared on CBS’ Face The Nation and outlined how he would be able to win the White House in 2016.
“I will be able to deliver in Washington,” he said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” “I will be able to win the election, and I’ll tell you why. Because we are going to bring more people into the process.”
Sanders, who is drawing large crowds in his long-shot presidential bid challenging Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton from the left, said he plans to take his populist message on poverty and income inequality to states like Alabama and Mississippi.
“We’re going to get young people, working people excited and involved in the political process,” he said. (Source)
For the most part, Democrats have given up trying to compete in red states, preferring instead to concentrate their resources on maintaining a defensive position in districts where they already hold an advantage. I hate comparing politics to warfare, but that’s what this is, a battle over territory, and Democrats are not going to win by simply playing defense. The demographics of traditionally red states are changing, but Democrats can’t just wait for people to eventually come around to seeing things from their perspective.
This what the party was doing ten years ago under Howard Dean’s leadership, and it was effective.
When former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean became chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in early 2005, one of his main efforts was to undertake a “50-state strategy,” a bid to build up party infrastructure and candidate recruitment at every level and in every state — even in solidly Republican bastions.
“We strengthened the parties so sitting governors could find good candidates” for offices high and low, Dean said. “That’s much easier to do from Topeka than it is from Washington.”
State party chairs loved the idea, but among national strategists, the approach was controversial. Dean bumped heads with then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who believed in a more conventional strategy of focusing limited campaign resources on swing districts. On CNN, Paul Begala said Dean’s gambit amounted to “hiring a bunch of staff people to wander around Utah and Mississippi and pick their nose.” (Begala later apologized.) (Source)
If Democrats want to win more than just the White House and avoid the post-2009 losses they have seen, going back to the 50-state strategy with a clear focus on swing districts in red states is the way to do it. Many Democrats I’ve talked to have an “all or nothing” approach when it comes to candidates in states like Louisiana. If that candidate isn’t as far left as they’d like, they’ll refuse to support their campaign, or even bother to vote – simply because they don’t agree with them on every single issue.
As an example, let’s look at Bernie Sanders again. I know a number of liberals who have told me they will not support him whatsoever because of his stance on gun control. Bernie Sanders represents a state with very low gun crime and very loose gun laws. His approach to the issue is pragmatic and doesn’t fall in line with the mindset of liberals who think that severe restrictions on sales of guns, or even an outright ban on ownership would end the complex problem this country has with gun violence. At the same time, there are quite a few red state moderates and independent voters who might otherwise support a Democrat if it wasn’t for the sheer amount of propaganda the NRA has spread about the party – as well as the Democrats who say things to give more ammunition to the “liberals want to confiscate all yer guns!” crowd.
I think Bernie Sanders has the right strategy to win a general election. I think he could even make Republicans very uncomfortable in their safest districts by emphasizing income inequality and refusing to condemn all gun owners as criminals or paranoid NRA nutjobs. Then again, if GOP voters ever find out that trickle-down economics is a scam and that they’ve been lied to all this time, the millionaires who fund the Republican Party will end up wishing they had pushed for gun control all along.
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