Despite the professional Democratic class and due to the hard work of the rank-and-file, the Democratic Party managed to take back the House. We’ve stopped most of the bleeding. Now, we have to move on to the next step: making the Democratic Party a truly national party. And before anyone tries to shame us out of this, remember, it’s our party, the professionals work for us, not us for them.
While policy does affect outcomes, there is simply a lot of party building work that has to be done. Years ago, Democrats gave up on rural areas, and it still haunts them (we won’t win locally in many rural areas, but these wins can make it easier at the state level). The Democratic leadership is more concerned about keeping existing members’ seats, than they are with improving the status of the party. Yes, we obviously need seats in both houses of Congress, but the short-term focus on winning elections (which is important to elected officials!) means there’s no long-term, party-wide strategy or initiatives–and the moribund DNC isn’t getting it done. Mind you, politicians like party leaders who, first and foremost, protect their seats, but that’s not always the best thing for the rank and file, especially when that comes at the expense of expanding the party’s reach. What they consider wasting money–spending on low-likelihood districts–is really important for the party as a whole. We need to show the flag everywhere.
What that means is we have to stop looking to Democratic politicians: they aren’t going to save us. Consider the Republicans. With a brief period where Paul Ryan was the next ‘It Girl’, they are, as a whole, incredibly uncharismatic. For the most part, interchangeable. They are not about finding the Next Great Hope. Instead, they have a series of ‘extra-party’ institutions, some of which are grassroots, some of which are not, they constantly pressure the Republican Party. We need to strengthen, and in many cases, build those institutions. It’s not enough to root for Team Blue, we have to start pressuring them to do certain things. Some of those things will be non-ideological, at least within the party, such as voting access. Others will be divisive, especially once spending and taxing is involved.
There’s a lot of work to do.