By Robert A. Vella
I’ve been railing for months now on this blog about the questionable political strategy of the Democratic Party. Progressives like myself see their stubborn refusal to embrace economic populism, in addition to their reluctance about trying to expand the electorate, as guarantors of defeat in non-presidential elections where voter turnout has been substantially lower. The 2010 midterms were an unmitigated disaster for Democrats, and 2014 doesn’t look much better.
It seems as though the Democratic Party leadership opposes the premise of economic populism, and because of that has resigned itself to a low turnout election strategy focused on appealing to moderate and centrist voters. In other words, they believe they can’t expand the electorate without angering their corporate benefactors so they’re not even going to try.
Recent results in the Florida special congressional election, and the San Diego mayor’s race, prove that to be a self-defeatist strategy. If working class Americans cannot trust the Democratic Party to represent their interests, they will have no where else to turn. Furthermore, increased disillusionment among this base group of citizens spells big trouble for Democrats in future elections.
This week, Democrat Congressional candidate Alex Sink lost the special election by 3,400 votes in Florida, despite a significant Latino electorate. The question is why this story keeps repeating. Can people of color successfully capture seats previously held by Republicans?
Expansion, not just persuasion, is the way to win, argues PowerPAC founder and political strategist Andy Wong. In his view, it is a grave mistake for political consultants to run campaigns with the primary goal of convincing primarily moderate white voters. In fact, San Diego mayoral hopeful David Alvarez lost by 17,000 votes in a campaign that didn’t have to end that way.
Instead, Wong argues that campaigns like Alverez’s should invest in voter registration and outreach efforts aimed squarely at the multiracial majority. Here, he breaks down the lessons from San Diego and outlines the path to victory for progressive candidates of color in California and beyond.