The other weekend, I was in Mississippi with Renee at a union rally. There were rednecks with pickup trucks wearing Bernie Sanders shirts, standing next to union members from across the country, supporting the right of local workers to unionize at the Nissan auto factory.
There were absolutely zero Democrats from the national party there, but Bernie Sanders was. He gave a short speech backing union workers, and there were thousands of people who marched to the gates of the factory demanding the right to vote for a union.
Mississippi is the reddest of red states. It is the only state that still flies the Confederate flag, and their laws aren’t too far removed from the 19th century. Yet, Bernie Sanders showed up with no special protection detail, because he doesn’t give a fuck.
Whether it is Mississippi, Louisiana, or any other red state – Democrats have stopped trying to compete or connect with voters in the Bible Belt. They have been playing defense for years, and it is hurting them badly. Establishment Democrats are happy to keep their seats in safe districts across the country, even as they have lost over a thousand seats across the United States during President Obama’s tenure in office.
I don’t care if you like Bernie Sanders or not, he is opening up opportunities in areas the Democrats have ignored for years. He isn’t afraid to show up in Mississippi or West Virginia to challenge the Trump agenda, unlike many other liberals. Even my very conservative mother likes Bernie, even if she doesn’t agree with him. According to her, he’s honest, which is more than can be said for most other politicians, even members of her Republican Party.
It’s time for Democrats to start playing the 50 state strategy again. Simply holding onto seats in safe districts in places like San Francisco or New York isn’t the way to win. A good place to start would be opposing the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare, an effort that is wildly unpopular.
PPP’s newest national poll finds that there is very little support for the American Health Care Act. Only 24% of voters support it, to 49% who are opposed. Even among Republican voters only 37% are in favor of the proposal to 22% who are against it, and 41% who aren’t sure one way or another. Democrats (15/71) and independents (22/49) are more unified in their opposition to the bill than Republicans are in favor of it.
The Affordable Care Act continues to post some of the best numbers it’s ever seen, with 47% of voters in favor of it to 39% who are opposed. When voters are asked whether they’d have rather have the Affordable Care Act or the American Health Care Act in place, the Affordable Care Act wins by 20 points at 49/29. Just 32% of voters think the best path forward with the Affordable Care Act is to repeal it and start over, while 63% think it would be better to keep what works in it and fix what doesn’t. (PPP)
This is a golden opportunity for Democrats to show that they care about people outside of New York, LA and San Francisco or other large metro areas. The populist discontent that swept Trump into office was something Democrat voters across the country failed to take into account when choosing Hillary Clinton instead of Bernie Sanders as their nominee.
Sticking with the same old strategy of playing defense is not a pathway to victory. It is a path to irrelevance even as America becomes more liberal. Democrats must try to connect with rural voters while adhering to their core values, because they are supposed to represent all of this country, and not just the liberal strongholds.