For­get the ‘mid­dle,’ Democrats, run on your con­vic­tions

Wisconsin Gazette - - Editorial -

Pres­i­dent Dwight D. Eisen­hower led a Repub­li­can Party in the 1950s that seems more like to­day’s Demo­cratic Party than to­day’s GOP.

As ex­plained in fas­ci­nat­ing de­tail on Bernie San­ders’ web­site san­­, Eisen­hower Repub­li­cans sought to raise the min­i­mum wage and in­crease el­i­gi­bil­ity for un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits. They were proud of union growth and, in 1956, the party pledged con­tin­ued sup­port for a law that man­dated liv­ing wages for work­ers on pub­lic con­tracts.

The Repub­li­can plat­form that year pledged the party would work to “as­sure equal pay for equal work re­gard­less of sex.”

To­day’s Repub­li­cans con­sider such ideas ra­bidly lib­eral, if not so­cial­is­tic.

In Wis­con­sin, Scott Walker and his GOP bud­dies over­turned many worker-friendly laws that were also on the Eisen­hower agenda, such as the pre­vail­ing wage law and women’s pay eq­uity. Walker, Paul Ryan, Leah Vuk­mir, Ron John­son, Robin Voss, Scott Fitzger­ald and other high-pro­file Repub­li­cans in­sist such poli­cies crip­ple the state’s econ­omy, dec­i­mate the mid­dle class and keep the poor mired in poverty.

Yet the 1950s are known as “The Decade of Pros­per­ity,” es­pe­cially for the mid­dle class. The econ­omy grew by 37 per­cent — even though the cor­po­rate tax rate was at least 15 per­cent higher than it is now. .

The Eisen­hower Era poli­cies can still work to­day, as proven in Min­nesota. At the height of the Great Re­ces­sion, Min­nesota adopted a mid­dle-class agenda sim­i­lar to Eisen­hower’s and built one of the na­tion’s most suc­cess­ful state economies.

Yet to­day’s Repub­li­cans, es­pe­cially in states such as Wis­con­sin, ig­nore these poli­cies as they con­tinue their marathon run to the right. They’ve tugged the Demo­cratic Party and the po­lit­i­cal cen­ter to the right with them.

To­day the elec­torate is so sharply riven that elec­tions are won not so much by ap­peas­ing in­de­pen­dent cen­trists as by in­spir­ing them with Demo­cratic ideas. The po­lit­i­cal sweet spot no longer sits mid­way be­tween the right and the left. In­stead, it stands grounded in con­vic­tion.

Con­sider the un­ex­pected pri­mary vic­tory of Demo­cratic so­cial­ist Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez in New York over a long-term es­tab­lish­ment in­cum­bent.

Con­sider the ris­ing poll num­bers of pro­gres­sive Texas Demo­cratic Se­nate can­di­date Beto O’Rourke against far-right Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Ted Cruz.

Polls and re­cent elec­tion re­sults show the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans agree more with Demo­cratic goals and strate­gies than with those of Repub­li­cans. Democrats are gain­ing by ar­tic­u­lat­ing their views de­ci­sively, not by wa­ter­ing them down so they’ll ap­peal to the po­lit­i­cal cen­ter — wher­ever that may lie.

San­ders-backed Demo­crat An­drew Gil­lum re­cently de­feated es­tab­lish­ment can­di­dates in the Florida gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary to face a Trump-backed con­ser­va­tive in the gen­eral elec­tion. That was an out­come the es­tab­lish­ment lead­ers of both par­ties, who haven’t caught up with their vot­ers, feared.

On Aug. 4, weeks ahead of the Florida pri­mary, Gil­lum tweeted: “If there are Democrats who think run­ning an­other can­di­date to the myth­i­cal cen­ter-right will win us a gen­eral elec­tion, we have 20 years of ev­i­dence to prove them wrong. It’s time to run strong on our values. Are you with me?”

The vot­ers of Florida an­swered “yes,” and oth­ers will fol­low if pro­gres­sives run strong on their values.

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