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With the election of Tom Perez as new Democratic National Committee Chair, the Democrats demonstrate their desire to double down on the failed strategies of the last four decades, since the loss of George McGovern in 1972. This failed strategy will cost the Democrats national elections and local elections across the country.
George McGovern lost in 1972 to Richard Nixon by a landslide. Many point to this loss with the rise of the "neo-liberal" movement in Democratic politics. And, as the "neo-libs" began to move the party towards the center - in an attempt to appease more and more centrists and Republicans - the further they moved from their principles and the people whom they purport to represent.
In a piece in the New Republic, Joshua Mound describes the rise of both the neo-con and neo-lib movements. While you may think the two have no connection, they most certainly do. And the loss of Barry Goldwater in 1964 shored up what we now know as the neo-con movement. With each election, the Republican Party chooses to validate and glorify the Goldwater-brand of conservatism. Nixon was the first, but did a poor job. Reagan was the next and brought all of it to fruition.
In 1972, McGovern fought for traditionally more forgotten and taboo ideals - social justice, racial equality and the poor. He lost his election and the Democrats, instead of embracing this ideology and these voters, instead turned their eyes to the right and fought to become, what they believed to be, more palatable to the everyday voter.
What is more troubling than the abandonment of core beliefs by the neo-libs is the constant move to the center. While the neo-cons and the Tea Party continue to move the Republican Party further to the right, the "center" continues to skew further to the right. And the neo-libs continue to chase that center while leaving many of its voters behind.
Democrats continue to push the demographics model of campaigning, believing strongly their base continues to be with them, it is the same group of voters, and is mostly homogenous in issue, election after election. This has proven to be a failed strategy in a number of ways.
First, if you haven't read my piece "The Reason Trump Won the Election" you should take a moment to read it. The Trump data strategy was far superior to that of the Democrats and the piece demostrates the antiquated system used by the Democrats depends on their demographics model and is a losing proposition. It used a much more sophisticated method of individualizing voters and appealing to them on their level, not relying on their race, gender, age, etc. to classify them.
Second, the Democrats have, for the past 12 years, lost their voter base. According to an article on alternet.org, the Democrats have experienced a loss in their base with each election. And this loss is due to the continued bad neo-lib strategy of chasing the center and relying solely on demographics to get them through.
It is a popular meme this election cycle to remind folks Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.87 million votes. While this is true, it is also true this is the lowest popular vote win percentage in the last 12 years. Obama beat McCain in 2008 by 8.54 million popular votes; he beat Romney in 2012 by 3.48 million popular votes. In 2012 Obama dropped 59 percent of the popular vote, and Hillary dropped 66 percent in the popular vote compared to 2008.
The graph above is interactive in the article on alternet.org, but show the decline in the major categories of Democratic demographic base over the 12 year period. This information is strictly for Presidential elections. The information for the off-year, Gubernatorial Elections shows a similar trend.
The data does not look good for the Democrats unless they make a concerted effort to change their strategy and work to embrace the Party and the ideology of McGovern, way back from 1972. And, as expected, the numbers show increases in turn out for Republicans comparable to the declines of the Democrats.
Neo-liberalism is a failing strategy. The corporate mentality of the main Democratic candidates filters down from the national level to the local level. Those who are focused on being progressive in their approach - the same progressive approach which George McGovern embraced in 1972 - must not allow the neo-liberal tactic from continuing to infect our local politics.
Progressives must continue to stand up for those whose voices are unheard; progressives must stand for issues such as social justice, racial justice, income justice, and poverty relief to name a few. And progressives must search out and find those candidates who represent these values.
Hopefully the appointment of Keith Ellison as Deputy Chair of the DNC will help to moderate the tone of the neo-liberals. Any movement away from the center - and therefore away from the right - is a good thing. It most certainly will not happen overnight and/or in one election cycle.
While I propose finding more progressive candidates, we cannot let perfection become the enemy of the good. If you have a starting point in a candidate, stick with them. Case in point, the 49th Congressional District in California. Doug Applegate is a good, progressive candidate. And, because of his progressive stands, the neo-liberal faction of the party is looking to supplant him as the candidate. Progressives: We cannot allow this to happen.
It took the Democratic Party more than 40 years to get to the place in which it is. It will take some time to reverse the damage done. Working diligently to find and promote progressive candidates is exactly what we need to heal the self-inflicted wounds of neo-liberalism.
All opinions expressed are those of Don Greene and not necessarily his employer.