The other day a close friend who is an occasional YSDA reader and a certified Madison liberal offered this pithy, sarcastic analysis of our work: “Yeah, liberals are dumb. We get it, already.”
That got me to thinking. Well, no, I don’t think my fellow liberals are dumb, exactly. I think too many of them (and the most influential of them) are politically naive, self-righteous and condescending. Is that better?
We do not fall into an easily definable tribe here at YSDA — in fact, we’re quite anti-tribal. We think of ourselves as classically liberal, center-left, non-partisan Democrats. (We also think of ourselves as odd for falling into the use of a plural pronoun when there’s only one guy at work here.) By that we mean we’re first and foremost for classical liberal values: free speech, the rule of law, individualism, reason over emotion, etc. We’re center-left on the current political spectrum. We’re somewhere between the Joe’s — more conservative than Biden, more liberal than Manchin. And we’re non-partisan Democrats, which is to say we vote for them, but we won’t defend a Democrat who is being an idiot and we won’t attack a Republican just for being one.
You can sum up our world view here in five easy steps.
First, the Republican Party is gone. It’s essentially now the Fascist Party of America, totally devoted to Donald Trump and detached from all the values it once held dear.
Second, that means the Democratic Party must succeed because the stakes are nothing less than the survival of American liberal democracy.
Third, in order for the Democratic Party to succeed it has to have appeal beyond major metros and college towns. That’s because you can’t win majorities in most state Legislatures without winning seats in rural and suburban districts. And if a disproportionate number of Legislatures remain in Republican hands it just makes it even harder to win majorities in the House because of gerrymandering.
Fourth, in order to win in rural and suburban America the Democrats have to moderate their image. They come off right now as the party that thinks everyone’s a racist, that wants to defund the police, that wants to spend a lot of money, that is in the back pocket of big teachers’ unions and that, generally speaking, has a low opinion of anybody who didn’t go to college. And, by the way, two-thirds of Americans don’t have a four-year degree. This, folks, is not a formula for success.
Fifth, Democrats can do better in elections by talking about fundamental American values, simple policy and incremental progress. They could start by going back to Bill Clinton’s simple and brilliant formulation: If you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to get ahead in America. Dividing up Build Back Better into single purpose bills (like the expanded child tax credit) makes a lot of sense because it allows for straightforward messaging, as in: we’ll give families a tax cut and lift a lot of kids out of poverty. Most importantly, the party needs to repeat this mantra: America is a great country that can get even better by living up to all its wonderful promises.
So, there. That’s our basic philosophy here at YSDA. And if you don’t get it, well then, you’re just a dumb liberal.
Welcome to the 349th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!