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Trejos: For 2020 success, Democrats must peddle broader ideology

Jose Trejos, Op-Ed Contributor

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Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 presidential election seems to have galvanized the American left. Many observers saw the rise of politicians such as Trump as proof that the Democratic Party has lost touch with ordinary voters and the white working class, a theory seemingly confirmed by the Republicans taking not only the White House, but also retaining control of Congress and securing a record number of state legislative seats this fall. Such a shattering defeat should inspire the Democratic Party to do some introspection into its message, moderate its more alienating edges and try to regain the discouraged voters that abandoned the party since Obama’s campaigns.

Instead, the Democratic Party is increasingly giving ground to its most extreme elements. Democrats have decided to blindly fight almost everything Trump does regardless of its merit. Radical figures like Elizabeth Warren and Keith Ellison are becoming the new face of the party. Even months after the election, prominent Democrats continue to blame Trump’s election on largely unsubstantiated claims of Russian hacking and question his legitimacy. Ultimately, this indulgent approach is likely going to be what loses the 2020 presidential election for the Democrats.

Many Democrats suggest that radicalization may be the way to win the White House, either by continuing to insist that someone like Bernie Sanders could have won the election or believing that Trump will become toxic enough to make all resistance to him popular. Sanders lost the primary to the historically-unpopular Hillary Clinton precisely because even left-leaning Democratic primary voters were hesitant about his socialist ideas. Despite his general unpopularity, over 50 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s recent executive orders regarding the Muslim ban and reducing government regulation, according to a POLITICO and Morning Consult poll. If this continues to be true, waiting for Trump to implode may prove an unsuccessful strategy for the Democrats.

The Democratic Party today is very similar to the left-wing Labour Party in England when it fell under the control of Jeremy Corbyn in 2015, its most radical leader in modern history. His takeover was cheered by socialists throughout the country for the opportunity to pursue their ideals unapologetically, yet almost immediately after he took office, British politics took a massive swerve to the right. Corbyn today has a staggeringly low approval rating and his unpopularity is likely to blame for the passage of Brexit. In fact, some observers worry that the UK has all but become a one-party state due to how irrelevant the left wing has become. The interesting result, of which American liberals should take note, is that Labour choosing a historically far-left leadership and message pushed the country massively to the right.

Britain’s story demonstrates the simple truth that democracies need more than one functional party to govern successfully. Prime Minister Theresa May, the leader of the right-wing Tories, has pursued radical policies like a hard Brexit because she fears her party’s extremists a lot more than she fears the now-irrelevant left-wing. Should the Democratic Party make the same mistakes as Labour, they may also become a trivial force in American politics. As Trump continues to corrupt conservatism into populism, I hope that Democrats do not become weak enough to let Trump pursue his most irresponsible ideas. The most effective policies are usually centrist policies, which makes me concerned about a future where a ruling party must worry only about pleasing their partisan base.

Democrats need to change their current path or they may lose even more moderate voters over the next four years. This is a hard pill for Democrats to swallow because it means that they cannot pursue policies exactly how they want. It is a lot easier to continue to say that Trump’s victory is somehow illegitimate and convince themselves the country is as outraged about him as they are. If Democratic activists want to truly stop Donald Trump from governing until 2024, they must learn how to appeal to a broader class of voter.

Jose Trejos is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be contacted at josetrejos2019@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.
The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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