Until Bernie Sanders decided to run for president, I was registered as an independent voter. I had been registered as a Democrat in Florida, prior to being a registered Republican for the first couple years of my adult life.
In Missisisippi the other weekend, Bernie Sanders was the only national political figure to show up to the march for union rights at the local Nissan factory. It was an interesting sight to see with big pickup trucks carrying Bernie stickers, along with people wearing camo clothing, there to support Bernie and the union movement.
Democrats have indeed lost their way. In the South and in red states, they have failed to connect with working class and rural voters. These are demographics Democrats have pretty much abandoned. Instead, the DNC has given little support to candidates like John Bel Edwards here in Louisiana, or just about anyone else not in friendly territory.
Rather than stick with the successful “50 state strategy” that wrestled back the Senate and the White House from Republicans, Democrats are now playing defense in friendly territory. That has been a disastrous blueprint and it cost them dearly ever since it was abandoned.
The populist movement that put Trump in office could have easily just as well been leveraged, had the DNC not decided to pull back and protect their establishment candidates. Even though I voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election, I still believe that Bernie Sanders and his message that resonated with a wide swath of the nation would have been a better choice for Democrat voters in 2016. I don’t remember her speaking much about the minimum wage or labor unions, and she spent very little time in red states – a strategy that cost her the presidency.
That election is over with, and now we have Republicans in full control of our federal government. I’m not really interested in rehashing the old Bernie vs Hillary battle that Democrats are still fighting amongst themselves. However, realizing that younger voters and independents aren’t interested in establishment candidates is important for Democrats to do.
Bernie Sanders draws huge crowds in red states, because his message about income inequality and education resonate with people outside the Democratic Party. He can bring out voters that may not have otherwise gone to the polls, just like Donald Trump did with people who were tired of the status quo, whether their intentions were good or not.
I don’t know if Bernie Sanders will run again in 2020. That is too far away to start the punditry and predictions, and there is so much damage that Trump and the GOP can do between now and then. Democrats have to start fielding candidates at the local and state levels in 2017, and prepare for the midterm elections in 2018.
In order to do that, Democrats need to find people who can win in their local and state elections. Democrats must appeal to constituents beyond the party establishment who aren’t afraid to stand with Bernie Sanders and his message about income inequality, and putting working class Americans first. They need to go back to the 50 State Strategy turn out the vote in contests that usually see very people show up, and Democrats have to start winning these elections before worrying about the White House in 2020.