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Delineating a national agenda and requiring each candidate to follow is not the best way for the Democrats to take control of the U.S. Congress in 2018. After a political party loses the White House, voices call for the party to effectuate a message that each member running for election or re-election is requested to repeat to his/her voters. The Democratic Party is currently in that mode. U.S. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of New York recently told the Associated Press: “The message is being worked on. We’re doing everything we can to simplify it, but at the same time provide the meat behind it as well.”

However, in a system with just two dominant political parties, it is sagacious for the party high command to instruct each candidate to establish a message that puts them in the mainstream of their respective electorates.

Ideological purists who derisively brand any independent-minded party member as a RINO (Republican in name only) or DINO (Democrat in name only), work assiduously to get the most ideologically unadulterated Congressional nominees to run even in parts of the country where only a moderate can win. Sometimes, the ideological candidate upsets the apple cart and wins the nomination. However, it is often the case that the candidate will suffer an ignominious defeat in the General Election.

We see this phenomenon at the Presidential level. In 1964, conservatives disaffected by the influence of the moderates and liberals, rebelled against more moderate candidates and supported rock-rib conservative Barry Goldwater. In the General Election, Goldwater made few overtures to win-over moderate voters, instead declaring: “Let me remind you that extremism in the Defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Goldwater lost in an electoral landslide. He won only one state outside of the Deep South, his home state of Arizona. Four years later, the party nominated the moderate former Vice President Richard M. Nixon and won the White House.

Contrariwise, in 1972, the “new left” rallied behind the candidacy of liberal U.S. Senator George McGovern. McGovern, once a 200-1 long shot, defeated more moderate candidates and garnered the Democratic nomination. Like Goldwater, McGovern made no attempts to moderate his message. Consequently, he won only the District of Columbia and Massachusetts. Four years later, the party begrudgingly nominated the moderate former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter and won.

The 2010 Congressional elections taught the GOP the folly that comes with ideological purity. The Republicans were whisker-close from taking control of the Senate. However, ideological purists came out in the primaries and nominated candidates who were too conservative for their constituencies. In Delaware, Mike Castle, a moderate-liberal Republican, was the favorite to win the GOP Senate nomination. Castle, a former Governor, was the state’s at-large representative since 1993. He was one of few Republicans who could have won the General Election. Castle was popular in the left-leaning state.

However, conservatives, believing Castle a RINO, supported conservative Christine O’Donnell who subsequently lost the General Election by 17 percentage points.

In addition, that year the GOP nominated two other Senate candidates who were too conservative for their states. In Colorado and Missouri, both candidates ceded the center to their Democratic opponents and lost the election.

From 1931-1995 (for all but four years), the Democrats held a majority in the House. During their days of electoral hegemony, the Democratic Party was greatly divided, with a liberal, moderate, and conservative bloodline. When Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson were in power, the Democrats maintained control of the Congress with the help of conservative Southern Democrats. While they proved a nuisance for both liberal Presidents, without these members the congressional majority might not have been maintained.

The Democratic Party held the House for such a long period of time, not by following a message telegraphed from the party’s high command, but by letting individual candidates craft their own messages. In 1938, Roosevelt tried to purge conservative Democrats in primaries by supporting liberal opponents and failed miserably. Only one of Roosevelt’s supported challengers ousted an incumbent. Democrat. The conservative Democrats were a good fit for their constituencies.

In 2006, under the tutelage of the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), the party won the House for the first time in 12 years, picking up 31 seats, the most seats since 1974. They did this by recruiting candidates who would be palatable to the electorate in their districts, not necessarily palatable to the national party. Twenty-two incumbent Republicans lost.

The Democratic recruits had the liberty to elucidate their own messages. That year, former NFL Quarterback Heath Shuler ousted incumbent Republican Charles Taylor in North Carolina not by advertising himself as a tribune of “Democratic Values” but of“mountain values.” Shuler’s opposition to abortion rights and additional gun control measures inoculated him from being tethered to the more liberal national party. On other issues, like opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which Shuler like most Democrats opposed, he sang from his party’s song sheet.

Emanuel’s counterpart at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Chuck Schumer of New York, superintended a similar strategy. He recruited Democrat Bob Casey Jr. in his bid to oust incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. Casey’s support of gun rights and his opposition to abortion rights were in sync with rural central Pennsylvania voters. Since both candidates were social conservatives, social issues were neutralized, and Casey was able to focus on economic and foreign policy issues where the Democrats harbored an advantage.

Rather than establishing broad themes and letting the candidates decide what to run on, Democratic National Committee Chairman Thomas Perez appears to be setting up an ideological litmus test. He recently stated: “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”

But for the Democrats to capture a Congressional majority, they must nominate candidates ideologically in line with their respective electorates. In some cases, that means nominating anti-abortion, conservative Democrats in districts where the national Democratic Party is to the left of the electorate.

For example, since 1991, U.S. Representative Colin Peterson represented a rural district in Minnesota. Peterson is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. However, his conservatism has allowed the Democrats to keep the district in Democratic hands despite giving Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump 6.1.8% of the vote in 2016. The only way the Democratic Party can keep this conservative district is by supporting a conservative candidate. Nominating a liberal here would constitute political suicide.

In a system with just two major parties, a party can only capture a Congressional majority by giving candidates the leeway to define their own messages and position on issues. Being called a RINO or a DINO might actually be a badge of honor for candidates running in the opposing party’s electoral terrain. Democratic candidates should not be pressured by party leadership to take positions supported by party chieftains. They should be given the latitude to define their own message. This would be politically wise.

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Democratic Party Not As Divided As In The Past

by Rich Rubino on June 21, 2017

Whenever a major political party fails to hold the White House, the political pundocracy bemoans that the party is freezing in the political wilderness, with no message or unifying principles. Yet by historical standards, the chasm in the Democratic Party today is infinitesimally small compared to past divisions in the party. Currently the Democratic Party is divided between establishmentarian center-left Democrats, most of whom supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential primaries, and insurrectionist liberals, most of whom supported her main rival, Bernie Sanders.

The establishmentarians are what is left from the New Democratic movement which launched Bill Clinton to power in 1992. They support the use of military force as a viable tool in the nation’s arsenal, they favor open markets (with some regulations), and they willingly accept monetary contributions from large financial institutions and agribusiness.

The insurrectionist liberals are skeptical of the use of military force, they believe free trade is a threat to U.S. workers, and they excoriate centrists for their cozy relationship with business.

Yet both sides are mostly in harmony in believing that the federal government should be used to intervene where the free market fails. In addition, most Democrats support abortion rights and stricter federal gun control measures.

Socially conservative Democrats from rural areas are negligible. Rare examples of these include U.S. Representative Colin Peterson of Minnesota, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana.

The Democratic Party was founded as a conservative party, championing a decentralized federal government, free markets, state sovereignty, and the preservation of slavery.

During the Economic Panic of 1837, Democratic President Martin Van Buren literally sold the Federal Government’s tool supply so the tools could not be used for public works projects in an attempt to stimulate the economy. Van Buren contended: “The less government interferes with private pursuits, the better for general prosperity.”

A major break in the ideological foundation of the Democratic Party occurred during the second term of President Grover Cleveland. Cleveland steadfastly maintained that providing federal government assistance “encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character.” Accordingly, even as the national unemployment rate reached 18%, the President did not advocate using the Federal Government to attempt to curtail the nation’s economic woes.

The actions of the unpopular President effectuated a grassroots revolt within the party. Populist Insurrectionists advocated a policy of bimetallism, where both gold and silver would be certified as legal tender. They believed that with more money in circulation, the Depression would end sooner. They also called for the federal government to directly stimulate the economy. Cleveland, in contrast, continued to advocate a lasses-faire approach to the economy.

The wildly unpopular Cleveland announced he would not run for re-election in 1896. This was on the heals of the Democratic Party losing a record 127 U.S. House seats in the 1894 mid-term elections.

The insurrectionists unified around 36-year-old “Great Commoner” William Jennings Bryan, whose message of an activist federal government was a radical departure from the President. Bryan, in upbraiding the party’s past support for the Gold Standard,bellowed: “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” With that, the Democratic Party nominated their first progressive candidate.

In politics, like in Physics, every action brings about an equal and opposite reaction. For the establishment of the Democratic Party, this reaction was to temporarily leave the current party. With the support of Cleveland and his coefficients, the National Democratic Party was hastily formed. The party nominated U.S. Senator John M. Palmer of Illinois. Speaking at the National Democratic Party Convention, U.S. Senator Bourke Cockran (D-NY) averred: “We must raise our hands against the nominee of our party, and we must do it to preserve the future of that party itself.”

In the end, Palmer garnered less than 1% of the vote and the National Democratic Party became a footnote within the American political tapestry. Bryan, the Democratic nominee, lost the election to Republican William McKinley.

The postmortem from this election was that the Democrats became a two-headed donkey. Conservatives wanted to return the party to its roots of advocating limited government. The avant-garde populist bloodline wanted the party to transmogrify into a house organ for the progressive movement.

Bryan won the nomination again in 1900, but the old guard wrested back control in 1904, nominating the staunch conservative New York Appeals Court Judge Alton B. Parker, who had the support of Cleveland. Bryan was incensed by this development, declaring: “No self-respecting Democrat would vote for him.”

This conservative/populist schism in the Democratic Party remained for much of the Twentieth Century.

The ideological divide was mostly drawn on geographical lines. Many Southern Democrats were more conservative than most Republicans. In fact, Conservative Southern Democrats joined with Conservative Republicans to form “The Conservative Coalition.” The group worked harmoniously against efforts to expand the Federal Government. They released the Conservative Manifesto in 1937. The document called for “lowering taxes,” “Maintaining states’ rights,” and “relying on American free enterprise.”

In addition to the economic split in the Democratic Party, there was also a split on the issue of segregation. Since the ending of reconstruction in 1877, Democrats controlled almost every office in “the solid south.” Most Democratic office- holders, like their constituents, sang the gospel of racial segregation. They used their leverage in the Congress, securing coveted committee chairmanships to make sure Civil Rights legislation never got out of their respective committees.

Many Democratic members of Congress from the North and West supported Civil Rights legislation but were not vocal for fear of offending the puissant Southern chairman.

The issue came to a head at the 1948 Democratic National Convention. The young Minneapolis Mayor and U.S. Senate nominee Hubert Humphrey, proposed a plank in the party’s platform committing the Democratic Party to support desegregation. Humphrey inflamed Southern delegates by averring: “The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.” The Party supported the plank, precipitating the exit of the Mississippi delegates and half of the Alabama delegation from the Convention. Discontented States’ Rights Democrats formed the State’s Rights Democrat Party, a.k.a., the Dixiecrat Party. Despite the chasm, Democratic President Harry S. Truman was elected to a full term.

The Civil Rights battle in the party clashed in 1964. President Lyndon B. Johnson assembled a coalition of liberal and moderate Democrats and Republicans to shepherd the Civil Rights Act through the U.S. Congress. The split was magnified, as 93% of Southern House Democrats and 95% of Southern Democrats opposed the legislation. Contrariwise, 94% of non-Southern House Democrats, and 98% of non-Southern Senate Democrats voted for the bill. After that vote, the southern Democratic citadels of Alabama and Mississippi shifted sharply away from the party and joined the Republican ranks.

Johnson’s “gradual escalation” of the war in Vietnam saw strident opposition from the left, as well as from the right. A raging inferno enveloped in the party between the Johnson administration and their supporters and mostly liberal Democrats who supported U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) in his failed quest to win the Democratic Presidential nomination. McCarthy branded the war “morally indefensible.” Many McCarthy supporters were disaffected by the Democratic party’s eventual nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a past Vietnam War supporter, and did not vote in the General Election. McCarthy offered only a luke warm endorsement of Humphrey, telling his loyal supporters: “I’m voting for Humphrey, and I think you should suffer with me.”

Four years later, the party nominated George McGovern, an ardent opponent of the U.S. role in Vietnam, causing some Democrats to join former Texas Governor John Connally in supporting the “Democrats for Nixon movement.” Johnson himself offered an unenthusiastic endorsement of McGovern, stating: “I believe the Democratic Party best represents the people, therefore I intend to support the 1972 Democratic nominee.”

While the gulf in the Democratic ranks today may seem wide, it is not nearly as pronounced as it used to be. The Democratic Party is fundamentally a center-left party. Conservative Democrats are nearly dormant. Both the center-left establishment and the liberal insurrectionist bloodlines support government as an agent of change. In the 2016 Presidential election, most Sanders’ supporters, even if reluctantly, supported Hillary Clinton in the General Election. That pales in comparison to whether the party should be conservative or liberal, whether it should support or oppose racial desegregation, or whether it should support or oppose a major military conflict involving the U.S.

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Trump Is One In A Long ‘Tripartisan’ Line Of Flip-Floppers

May 31, 2017

Of all the arrows a political candidate has in his/her quiver, charging an opponent with “flip-flopping” is often feckless and can even have a backlash effect. The strategy of most candidates is to put themselves in the mainstream of the voters while portraying their opponent as extreme. When a candidate is charged with flip-flopping, moderate […]

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Will Hillary Try Again For Presidential Nomination?

May 10, 2017

After a surprising defeat in the presidential election, Hillary Clinton is reentering the political fray, declaring herself “part of the resistance.” Hillary is not the first losing Presidential nominee to refuse to fade into the electoral abyss. Some Hillary supporters are holding out hope that she will try again for the Democratic Presidential nomination in […]

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Nepotism in the White House: It’s All Relative

April 11, 2017

President Donald Trump recently appointed his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner as unpaid senior White House advisors. Some legal scholars argue that these “appointments” are in violation of The Federal Postal Act of 1967 signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The statute disallows the President from appointing a relative to a “civilian […]

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April 1, 2017

Due to the opposition of the conservative Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was forced to pull proposed legislation supported by President Donald Trump to “Repeal and Replace” the Affordable Care Act. In response, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is hinting that the President may campaign against […]

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There is a Constitutional Avenue to Remove Trump That is Not Impeachment

March 14, 2017

From twitter tirades to bombastic statements, some critics of President Donald Trump are suggesting that the President might be mentally unstable and should be removed from office. The most obvious avenue in the U.S. Constitution to remove a President from office is through the impeachment and conviction process (The U.S House votes to impeach, then […]

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Leakapalooza: Leaks are Nothing New in the White House

February 22, 2017

Donald Trump is waging a Holy War against information leaks. He recently complained:“From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked. It’s criminal action, criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time before me.” Leaking has been a bone of contention between Presidents and maverick government officials throughout the existence of […]

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Trump Was Not First to Use Slogan “America First”

February 1, 2017

In his Inaugural Address, President Donald Trump repeated a theme from his Presidential Campaign, telling the world: “From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.” Many Trump critics point to the fact that this was a watchword for those who opposed U.S. intervention in WWll before the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. Actually, the phrase […]

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Presidential Transition Day: Some Interesting Stories

January 11, 2017

Protocol dictates that the outgoing President leaves a note to be read by his successor upon taking office. This practice began when Ronald Reagan left a note for his successor George H.W. Bush, admonishing him: “Don’t let the turkey’s get you down.” The President then welcomes his successor to the White House. The outgoing and […]

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