If You Want Democrats To Succeed In 2017, Look Towards Ronald Reagan

Former US President Ronald Reagan sits 09 June 1989 in his office in Century City near Los Angeles. Reagan was US president from 1980 to 1988. (Photo credit should read CARLOS SCHIEBECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: CARLOS SCHIEBECK/AFP/Getty Images

I was in a custom t-shirt shop in Los Angeles on Tuesday when I overheard the shopkeeper say to a customer, "I want to make some 'Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Bernie' shirts, I think they'll sell out immediately." I bit my tongue, mostly because having to think too hard about politics outside of working hours is exhausting, but it got me wondering: what will being a Democrat mean in 2017, when we're out of power, when the factions of our party seem so deeply divided and when it will be more important than ever for liberals to have a unified voice?

Well, first I can tell you what I think will happen: the contest for Democratic National Committee chair is going to be fierce, and almost nobody will pay attention to it outside of a handful of politicos and those of us who are casually obsessed with politics. Still, the fight will be bloody, and I predict (though so far so many of my past predictions have been wrong) that the party will walk away from it more divided, not less.

Part of the problem is that so many people who voted for Clinton (and, more importantly, I'd argue, Obama) don't consider themselves Democrats. When you have a party that's close to 200 years old — and which, thanks to strange political evolution, used to be the party of white Southern racism — it can feel strange to throw one's full support behind the institution.

But without more of that kind of support, not only with the Democrats not be able to win elections — they won't be able to find worthy candidates to run in those elections. Obama was extremely successful in 2008 and 2012 at making voting for Obama seem cool, but he did little to make being a Democrat seem cool.

And, listen, the Democratic party doesn't have to contort itself into millennialspeak in order to seem morally cool. However, it does have to find its core values, much in the same way Reagan provided foundational values for conservatives. This means resisting at all costs defining the party in opposition to the Republicans, and discovering why it is that we believe it's better to skew left than skew right.

To that end, I believe the Democratic party needs a reset. This does not mean chucking Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer out the back door and making Elizabeth Warren and Keith Ellison dictators-supreme over the party; rather, it means we need our own list of things that anyone can go to when they're asked why they support the Dems. If the "11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative" are "Freedom, Faith, Family, Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life, American Exceptionalism, The Founders' Wisdom and Vision, Lower Taxes, Limited Government, Peace Through Strength, Anti-Communism, Belief in the Individual," then surely the Democrats can come up with 11 consensus principles of our own. (Education, Health Care, and right to Self-Identify seem as good a place to start as any.)

In the end, I wonder if it might be necessary to do a more intensive makeover, and get rid of the Democratic party name all together — it might have too many past associations with Wall Street Bankers, and carries the, I think, undeserved but blatantly present stench of the Clintons — and start fresh. I don't know that anyone currently on the political map is capable of these things though, but I'd be delighted to be proven wrong.

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