EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) dismissed the possibility that Donald Trump’s popularity with rural and working-class voters spelled trouble for the Democratic ticket. “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia,” he proclaimed, reflecting the prevailing attitude within the party establishment. “And you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”
One year after the election, it’s not clear that Democrats have learned their lesson. Many have deluded themselves into believing that Russian interference, and not the party’s abysmal failure to win over the working class, was the primary culprit in Hillary Clinton’s crushing defeat. Clinton herself has pointed fingers at Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former FBI director James B. Comey, while mocking former vice president Joe Biden’s suggestion that her campaign did not offer a vision for the middle class. But even as Democratic leaders have cleared the wreckage and begun to rebuild, there has not been a full and honest reckoning with what actually happened in 2016 or how the party can avoid the same outcome in the 2018 midterms.
In the absence of an official inquiry, a group of Democratic and progressive activists last week published “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.” While the 33-page report covers a range of issues, it offers a particularly harsh indictment of the party’s self-defeating attempts to simultaneously please its billionaire backers and the working-class voters who make up the Democratic base. “Corporate domination over the party’s agenda—and, perhaps more importantly, the perception of corporate control over the party’s agenda—rendered the Democrats’ messaging on economic issues ideologically rudderless and resulted in a decline in support among working-class people across racial lines,” the autopsy states. “We live in a time of unrest and justified cynicism towards those in power; Democrats will not win if they continue to bring a wonk knife to a populist gunfight.”
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.