Though the Republican Party has faced fire for its lack of morality, the Democratic Party needs to change its strategy to succeed.
The GOP is dead. The Republican party has left fiscal, judicial and moral conservatism behind for deficit-expanding tax cuts, partisan enforcement of the law and a president with no moral grounding on any issue. Any time spent worrying about the future of the Republican Party is time wasted on one that values little other than winning at all costs. This leaves the American people with one important question: what about the Democrats?
The party of the New Deal, the Great Society and the Affordable Care Act has seen better years. Losing the 2016 election was the biggest in a series of political gut punches followed by two conservative Supreme Court appointments, withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords and a new tax code that overwhelmingly rewards the wealthy.
All branches of the federal government now belong to the Republicans, and the coming midterms only give the Democrats the chance to win one half of one branch. The Democratic Party is in as dismal a state as possible, and yet it is still worth fighting for. However, any method of reviving the Democratic Party will require substantial changes from both within and without the party.
Democrats must decide what they stand for. Since the presidency of Bill Clinton, Democrats have been playing the Republicans’ game of tax cuts and draconian crime enforcement. In the last few years, some Democrats have broken with that orthodoxy, which makes it almost impossible to determine where the party stands on a variety of important issues.
One of the most inspiring parts of the Democratic Party is that they label themselves as inclusive big tent when it comes to political ideology, but at some point, they must decide where the edges of that tent end and promote candidates who uphold the party’s principles. If that means isolating some voters who love Bernie Sanders’ progressive positions, then do it. If that means isolating older voters who loved the moderate policies of Bill Clinton, then do it.
Democrats do not have to hold a strict line on all issues, but there need to be core tenets that all national-level members subscribe to. This will no doubt result in inter-party strife, but when a Democratic candidate runs, the voters should at least be able to know the key issues that they will fight for if elected.
The next change must come once Democrats get elected. Democratic politicians must not be afraid to challenge the status quo of the last thirty years. One key to the Republican Party’s rise since the 1980s has been their ability stare down the status quo and go against anything that runs antithetical to their ideology.
They’ve done this most effectively by chipping away at Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that set up a system for when abortions could happen and restricted how much the government could interfere with a woman’s right to choose. Roe was decided in 1973, but in the almost half century since, countless conservative challenges to the ruling have gutted the majority opinion and vastly altered the precedent set by the court.
By following the same strategy, Democrats must be willing to refute major conservative victories if they are going to have a chance of truly regaining control. That might mean challenging Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that, in 2013, effectively removed any restrictions on political donations by corporations, or it could mean overturning the Republican tax plan that places a higher financial burden on the middle and lower classes than those at the top. Democrats will have to define their values first, but once they do, they cannot be afraid to challenge any part of the system that does not uphold those values.
These changes will not come easy for Democrats and might very well shake up the current leadership in the party, but they will be necessary changes if the party wants to accomplish anything in the foreseeable future. The Republican Party has proven in the last two years that it is incapable of governing, and the Democrats don’t currently look much better. However, with the Democrats likely to win back the House in the 2018 midterms, we might just get a chance to see if they’re making a return to the kind of mentality that helped the party govern for most of the 20th century.