Democrats always seem to be on the defensive when running. They always attempt to run to a false center, a Republican-Lite stance. Progressives won this round because most were unapologetically Progressive, if not in words in policies.
Beto O'Rourke came closer than anyone, including Bill White, the former Centrist Mayor of Houston by being an abashed Progressive even when campaigning in the reddest Texas districts. Stacey Abrams could take her race to a runoff even with head-hurricane of voter suppression. The same applies to Andrew Gillum. John Culberson (R-TX) as well as Pete Sessions (R-TX), two influential Republicans, succumbed to candidates who never ran to the mythical center.
These Progressive Democratic winners combed and nurtured their districts explaining the policies they stood for and why it was best for their constituents. Beto O'Rourke even took on criminal justice as he defended the NFL players right and reasons for kneeling in one of the most eloquent and historically accurate interpretations of the reality of people of color. We know many, run away from the topic for fear of losing the white vote not realizing they likely lose more elections to apathy than to white racism.
Interestingly, Donald Trump recently came out in support of sentencing reform. MSNBC reported the following.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pledged his support for a major overhaul of sentencing laws and prisoner re-entry programs at the White House on Wednesday. Trump's backing for the package, which is still being drafted in the Senate, has been seen as a key factor in providing political cover for Republicans and Democrats to vote for an overhaul that would diminish criminal penalties for some offenders and make it easier for former inmates to find work.
Trump framed a planned reduction in certain mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses and other proposed sentencing provisions as a bid to fix President Bill Clinton's 1994 anti-crime law. "It rolls back some of the provisions of the Clinton crime law that disproportionately harmed [the] African-American community," Trump said at a White House event.
Notice Trump's triangulation as he made it clear that the former crime bill was on President Clinton's watch. It was responsible for locking up a lot of people of color, specifically black men. As the 2020 presidential campaign nears, one can expect Trump to send signals on legislation and narratives with an expectation to peel off a few votes here and there from constituencies that are generally hostile to him.
Supposedly-Progressive paid analysts have been leading the Democratic Party off a cliff for decades. Imagine how much more effective investing the dollars spent on those failed high-priced analysts if they had been spent with the grassroots neighborhood by neighborhood. Going forward, Democrats should invest in local grassroots efforts that supplement activists who know and understand their area.
Democrats and Progressives must keep their base primed to prevent disingenuous shenanigans and triangulation like the former from potentially carving segments of our constituency. Trump is effective at doing just enough. Conventional wisdom has it that his play on going full blown racist interspaced with lies, (read invading caravan of brown people and a 10% middle-class tax cut) was unsuccessful. Anectdotally, many contacts with families in rural and low information communities throughout the nations have expressed to me that the message resonated and sent many more people to the poll that would otherwise go. That was clear both in Texas and Florida and probably instrumental in Beto O'Rourke's loss and potentially others. In other words, Trump could not stop the Blue Wave, but he likely stopped a tsunami.
As Democrats take over the House, there are specific issues beyond their control that Trump could use against them. Democrats must assume that both a stock market and an economic collapse are imminent. They should explain that policies enacted by Trump, specifically the tax cut scam that ballooned the deficit and the debt, and the tariffs lay a foundation for the collapse. The economy is on borrowed time with a sugar high. As Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen once said, a blank check can give anyone the semblance of prosperity. As the economy and stock market begin to fail, Trump's narrative will be the economy was doing fine until Democrats got elected.
Democrats must remain on the attack. They must stop fighting from a defensive posture against our child-president. They must stop seeking a false center to appease voters that have no desire for the lite version of what they want. Americans' values are with us. It is on us to make them believe that we can take them there. You do that by being bold with ideas and not filtering through some false center. If we give Americans choices, they will come out to vote. We won 2018. As the GOP learned in 2012 after their 2010 Obama shellacking, there is no guarantee of consecutive waves or wins.