WASHINGTON – In the election, Democrats dreamed of holding something like Star Wars, with rebel forces blowing up the Death Star and celebrating in the streets as a blue wave engulfed them in power in Washington and state capitals across the country.
But the victory of President-elect Joe Biden ultimately looked more like the horror film Alien, with the last stunned survivor kicking the monster out of the airlock and then drifting into an uncertain fate in deep dark space. And wherever they were, there would probably be another alien.
Yes, Biden decisively defeated President Donald Trump ̵
The party searched key Senate contests, lost seats in the House and failed to conquer state legislatures during the redistributive year, despite having political winds on its back, more money in its bank accounts and hyper-activated levels, which it spent four years in. preparation for this moment.
If this wasn’t the year the Democrats won big, then when can they?
“It’s really hard for our party psychology to learn any lessons when we keep winning,” said Democratic strategist Danny Boss, referring to the presidential race. “But someone has to have a difficult conversation to say, ‘It’s not enough.’
In interviews with more than two dozen operatives and elected officials, Democrats said they were worried that the results of 2020 would hamper the party and the progressive agenda, creating a bleak next decade of difficult battles in which winning working majorities will be won. difficult for both the state and federal levels.
Of particular concern was the party’s weak statement in the country’s legislative competition, not only because the GOP will once again have dominance in drafting districts, but also because it revealed a major problem with Democratic Party brand communication.
“We need to demonstrate that we are a party that is on the side of working families,” said State Representative Chris Turner, the leader of the Democrats at the Texas State House.
In Washington, the plan for many Democrats was to take over the Senate and go through a swift round of reforms, from voting rights to accepting new states into the union that would help the party overcome structural constraints and create them not only for broad political victories. but additional electoral gains down the line.
“2020 was the last best chance to have a real working majority in the Senate. It’s gone,” said Sean McLaughley, founder of the left-wing Data for Progress think tank. “We have two more years in which we can try to work in the structure and win this election. And then I am at a loss.”
There are still many things that are not known about the 2020 elections, but the talks – and the pointing of the finger – have already begun when the party begins to take some lessons.
Demography is not destiny
For a long time, Democrats took it as a gospel that their future was secure as the country became younger and more diverse, as long as they elected these voters.
But turnout broke records this year, and not only did Democrats not give up, but Republicans also took advantage of the democratic advantage with non-white voters they considered part of their base.
Some worry that the party, once rooted in the working class but run and funded largely by liberals with higher education, could lose touch with voters of all races outside major metro areas.
“We are such a Beltway party that we can’t even understand that there are many Mexicans in the valley (Rio Grande) who love Donald Trump,” said Chuck Rocha, a Texas-based Democratic strategist who runs a super PAC focused on Latin America. . “Biden won and that’s great, but everything under Biden was a huge disaster.”
White working-class voters began abandoning the party decades ago, and some Latinos and African Americans, especially men without higher education in rural areas, followed suit this year, turning a strong Latino rural district in Texas red after by voting for Democrats by a large margin in 2016
La Tosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, said young black voters in particular were less attached to Democrats and that the party could not take them for granted. She noted that Trump has made concerted efforts to attract them, stressing his support for the criminal justice reform bill, even when his Law and Order message portrays black activists as violent extremists.
“He’s a walking hypocrite, but Trump is a master at making sounds and telling people what they want to hear,” she said. “It was no different when it came to black voters.”
The blame here lies with both sides of the party’s ideological divide, from party leaders who sometimes seem incompatible with the daily struggles of working Americans, to an activist class that pushes Democratic candidates to take sometimes unpopular positions that may not even fully reflect the views of the groups they claim to represent.
The whole policy is national
Biden’s campaign aimed to hold a referendum in 2020 on Trump’s chaotic mandate, and it succeeded, but the results were far worse on the ballot.
Republicans blocked swaying neighborhoods with ads linking moderates to the party’s most extreme left-wing votes, sparking fierce accusations between factions.
“When you’re Joe Biden and you’re 47 in public and have a billion dollars behind you, you can build your own brand,” said Matt Bennett, executive vice president of the centrist think tank Third Way. “But when you don’t have a vote, it’s hard to outrun that brand in red and purple neighborhoods.”
Activists on the left claim they were unfairly elected. They claim to have provided progressive voters for Biden and helped raise young people’s turnout to new heights.
“We cannot allow Republican stories to rule our party,” left-wing Fair Democrats, Sunrise Movement, Strategies for New Deals and Progress Data wrote in a post-election note.
But a surprising number of democratic thinkers and strategists, including some on the left, are beginning to wonder – delicately and often in private – whether the party should underscore some of the divisive cultural battles that are taking place, especially on social media.
After all, six out of 10 voters do not have higher education. More than 40 percent live in a gun home. And while atheism and agnosticism are on the rise, the non-religious still make up just over a quarter of the population.
This does not mean abandoning social justice policies, simply promoting the popular ones and not necessarily putting the more divisive in front and in the center.
“We need to care more about what the two-job Latin American thinks than the Brooklyn hipster, whose entire public engagement is on Twitter,” Boss said.
The unknown future
While Democrats are already debating what went wrong in the down-voting contests, clear answers may take some time.
Some countries are still counting votes, and analysts are still looking for constituency data to determine where the party is doing less well. Until interviewers understand why they missed key competitions, it will also be more difficult to determine which issues resonate with the public and at which points in the competition.
Then there are the two biggest unknowns that only future elections will allow: Trump and the pandemic. Trump has raised turnout to levels not seen in a century on both sides, and it is unclear what will happen if he leaves.
“Republicans don’t do so hotly when Trump isn’t on the ballot,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, citing Democratic gains in 2018.
The coronavirus also makes it difficult to assess the 2020 cycle. Democrats have largely stopped traditional personal participation operations for fear of exposing volunteers and voters.
“This is probably the only campaign in history where you can find that, in general, the candidates of one party have knocked on many more doors than the candidates of the other party,” said Daniel Squadron, a former New York senator and founder of The Fund for the Future Now, which targets state legislative races.
Arizona and Georgia showed a potential roadmap for the party’s future, but the victories there were the fruits of seeds planted years ago with high-profile campaigns to register and organize voters. In Arizona, it began a decade ago with efforts to repeal the strict immigration law and remove former Sheriff Joe Arpayo, while Stacey Abrams began her work in Georgia in 2014.
“If you want to win and maintain your profits, you have to maintain your investment,” said Perez, who will soon leave the post of DNC chairman and, according to him, leaves the party in much better shape than he found it. “You can’t just invest every four years and expect to win.”