July 25, 2018

Word: Democrats have to rediscover economic issues

Robert  Kuttner, American Prospect -  Deft Democratic candidates promise hard-pressed voters a better deal on economics, but reflect the views of their districts on hot-button social issues. Conor Lamb managed this brilliantly when he won his special election to Congress in Pennsylvania’s 18th District last March, carrying a district so ostensibly red that Trump carried it by nearly 20 points and the Democrats did not even bother to field a candidate for the seat in 2016 and 2014. Advertisement

.... Nobody manages this better than Ohio’s Sherrod Brown. He is currently up between 13 and 17 points in the polls in his Senate re-election campaign, in a state that Donald Trump carried by more than 350,000 votes. Brown is a role model for how to make pocketbook populism work in Trump country.

It’s not that Brown is a moderate on social issues, either. He was the Senate’s lead sponsor on a resolution designating June as a month to celebrate and advance LGBTQ rights, and his position on all the social issues from immigration to abortion is progressive. But he leads with the populist economics, so socially conservative working class voters know that Brown is on their side, and they cut him some slack on other issues they may not support.

.... Only in a handful of swing, Republican-held suburban districts, where voters, especially Republican women, are disgusted with Trump, does it make any sense for a Democrat to run as more of a moderate on economics. And even in those districts, there are less affluent people who would turn out if a candidate gave them a good reason to vote.

So asking whether Democrats are running too far to the left in general is precisely the wrong question. The right question is how they blend economic issues—where they need to be left almost everywhere—with social issues, given that immigration rights, gun rights, or abortion rights can be divisive in the more socially conservative parts of the country.

The worst combination of all, as Hillary Clinton painfully demonstrated in 2016, is left on identity issues and pro-Wall Street on economics. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker, take note.

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