New York Times columnist urges Democrats to "seize the center" and drive away the left – Salon

Posted: November 13, 2019 at 1:49 am

TheNew York Times' Thomas Edsall has an axe to grind, and the paper loves to let him grind it. Edsall is convinced that the Democrats need to move to the center, in ways that will offend much of the party, in order to appeal to the moderate white swing voters he believes are the key to a Democratic victory in 2020.

Democrats will have to tackle issues that may alienate and even give offense to progressives, women, Latinos and African-Americans, Edsall preaches in his latest column (11/1/19). (Edsall repeatedly makes arguments like this, in which only cisgender, straight white men are never to be betrayed. See, for example, Whats a Non-Racist Way to Appeal to Working-Class Whites? NYTs Edsall Cant Think of Any,,3/30/18, and NYT Steers Dems Away From the Obvious Formula for Defeating Trump,,8/29/19.)

To seize the center, says theNew York Times' Thomas Edsall (11/1/19), Democrats have to be willing to alienate and even give offense to progressives, women, Latinos and African-Americans. (Note that this leaves a center that includes fewer than 30% of voters.)

Why is Edsall so convinced of this strategy? Well, in this column, he looks at evidence that Trump won because of his aversion to political correctness, and concludes that jumping on that train is how Democrats will win back the swing electorate.

To help him interpret his data and figure out how to save the Democratic Party, Edsall turns to a real spectrum of experts: A Republican lobbyist, a Republican pollster, a Republican consultant, another Republican consultant, a Republican Trump critic and the editor of a site that features many anti-Trump conservatives. Oh, and two professors to help balance things out one of whom argues that it would be utterly foolish for Democrats to move the Democratic Party further leftward, the other of whom worked for Kenneth Starrs Whitewater investigation.

At least as problematic, though, are the questions Edsall is asking. He plies these right-wing experts with questions about why immigration, identity politics and political correctness remain problematic for Democrats.

Melanye Price (New York Times,11/1/19) argues that Elizabeth Warren (and Julin Castro) seem most capable of building a multiethnic coalition of young people, whereas Bernie Sanders has made limited inroads in minority communitieseven though Warrens supporters are considerably older and much whiter than Sanders (Pew,8/16/19).

The problem here is twofold. First, persuading the swing electorate is not the only or clearly best way for Democrats to win, as the left always points out. TheTimesis not unaware of this, and in this instance they present Edsalls argument as part of a package; its accompanied in part by a column by Melanye Price (11/1/19), who makes the case for focusing on turning out the youth vote, which is increasingly not white, and increasingly leans heavily Democrat. (Its worth noting that while Price claims Elizabeth Warren and Julin Castro seem most capable of appealing to young people,Bernie Sandershas a much higher percentage of under-30 supporters and supporters of color than the other leading candidates.)

The demographic future of this country does not bode well for a party built on white supremacy, which is why the Republican Party is so intent on vote suppression and why a massive get-out-the-vote strategy would virtually ensure Democratic victory. (Whether thats what the Democratic Party establishment wants is another question.) Edsall himself actually acknowledges the turn-out-the-base option, but dismisses it with a quote from his anonymous Republican pollster: Democrats should focus on persuasion, because Trump will take care of mobilizing his opponents. If only it were so simple; ask Hillary Clinton about that one.

But second and not countered by an accompanying column: The swing electorate that cares only about immigration and identity politics is a myth. Peoples political opinions vary on a range of issues, so broad-brush labels like liberal, moderate and conservative are only so helpful in predicting what positions they hold or which issues are most important to them. The politics of a person who could vote in one election for Barack Obama and the next for Donald Trump obviously cant be captured with such a label.

Its true that Trump, more than any politician in recent U.S. history, turns out voters based on conservative identity politics. But he courted those same white working-class voters by bucking GOP orthodoxy with liberal economic positions most notably trade protectionism, but also disingenuouslyattacking Wall Street and falsely promisingto defend Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, which since the New Deal has been theparty of labor, has long been shifting to the right on economic policy, abandoning one of its core constituencies.

Never mind that a wealth tax, proposed by both Sanders and Warren, iswildlypopularamong general election voters. Never mind that Medicare for All is also verypopular although recent polls (including one cited by Edsall) indicate that support may be weakening under the massive coordinated attacks on the plan from the deep-pocketed health industry and their lackeys from both parties and the corporate media (,4/29/19,10/2/19).

Edsall wants Democratic candidates to appeal to those white working-class voters, not by offering them real economic succor, but by throwing the rest of the party under the bus. Of course thats what all theInexplicable Republican Best Friendsconsulted by Edsall advise (many of whom are explicitly anti-Trump) because doing so would essentially turn those candidates into models of the pre-Trump Republican Party.

And by balancing Edsalls column with three other columns that make no mention of economics, class, wealth, poverty or inequality, theTimesseems to be happily going along with the centrist smoke and mirrors.

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New York Times columnist urges Democrats to "seize the center" and drive away the left - Salon

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