Democrats vow ‘Bet­ter Deal’ for vot­ers in work­ing class

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Af­ter watch­ing work­ing-class vot­ers flee their party in last year’s elec­tions, con­gres­sional Democrats promised last Mon­day to try to win them back by be­com­ing the eco­nomic pop­ulist war­riors that Pres­i­dent Trump had promised to be — and they have al­ready lined up a record num­ber of can­di­dates to help them.

Bust­ing out of the Beltway and into ru­ral north­west­ern Vir­ginia, Demo­cratic lead­ers said they will push bills to boost Amer­i­cans’ pay, pun­ish large cor­po­ra­tions and of­fer tax in­cen­tives to try to en­tice work­ers back into an econ­omy still strug­gling nearly a decade af­ter the 2008 crash.

Sen­ate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York pre­dicted that they can bridge the di­vide Mr. Trump ex­ploited last year be­tween Democrats’ spe­cial in­ter­est base and white work­ing­class vot­ers, who felt left be­hind dur­ing the Obama years.

Flanked by House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia and other top Democrats, Mr. Schumer said the cur­rent pres­i­dent’s un­even mes­sag­ing and fail­ure to live up to cam­paign prom­ises to boost the mid­dle class have given Democrats an open­ing.

“The fo­cus starts on eco­nomic is­sues,” Mr. Schumer said. “That’s where the Amer­i­can peo­ple are hurt­ing. That’s what we most felt was miss­ing in the past and the last sev­eral elec­tions. And we all take some of the blame of that. I cer­tainly do. We’ve got to get fo­cused on eco­nom­ics, No. 1.”

Democrats trav­eled to Ber­ryville, in Clarke County, which gave Mr. Trump a 20 per­cent­age point vic­tory over Hil­lary Clin­ton in Novem­ber, to ar­gue that they can still con­nect with ru­ral vot­ers.

The White House, though, un­der­cut the event. Top ad­viser and pres­i­den­tial son-in-law Jared Kush­ner picked the same early af­ter­noon time to de­liver a pub­lic state­ment about his pri­vate meet­ing with Sen­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

With the ca­ble news net­works fo­cused else­where, Democrats in­sisted that they can make up ground by con­vinc­ing vot­ers they are not just against Mr. Trump, but also have ideas that can af­fect av­er­age vot­ers’ wal­lets.

Their agenda is dubbed a “Bet­ter Deal.” Law­mak­ers promised full de­tails in the com­ing weeks, though early ideas in­cluded break­ing up big cor­po­rate mo­nop­o­lies, surg­ing in­vest­ment in Amer­i­can in­fra­struc­ture, call­ing for more paid leave for work­ers, free­ing Medi­care to ne­go­ti­ate bet­ter prices on pre­scrip­tion drugs and of­fer­ing tax cred­its to en­cour­age job train­ing.

Lead­ers said their goal is a pol­icy agenda, not a po­lit­i­cal slo­gan, but they clearly had their eye on the midterm elec­tions next year.

They are well ahead in re­cruit­ing chal­lengers to try to un­seat Repub­li­cans. A study found that 209 Democrats have reg­is­tered with the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion and raised at least $5,000 for their cam­paigns — 16 months be­fore vot­ers cast their bal­lots.

That level of in­ter­est is re­mark­able, wrote Michael J. Mal­bin, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cam­paign Fi­nance In­sti­tute, who said it shows Democrats are ready to take ad­van­tage of any po­lit­i­cal tidal wave.

“The party rid­ing a wave can­not win in a dis­trict un­less it puts up a cred­i­ble can­di­date,” Mr. Mal­bin wrote in his anal­y­sis, pub­lished by the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion. “You can­not beat some­body with no­body. Find­ing a cred­i­ble can­di­date has to come first.”

Democrats’ 209 House chal­lengers com­pare with just 28 for Repub­li­cans. That gap is un­like any­thing else on record dat­ing back to 2003, the re­port said.

Per­haps more stun­ning than the to­tal num­ber of chal­lengers is the spread of the can­di­dates. Brook­ings said 105 House Repub­li­cans now face at least one chal­lenger who has raised $5,000. Ahead of the 2010 Repub­li­can wave, just 50 Demo­cratic in­cum­bents faced at least one such chal­lenger at this point be­tween elec­tions.

Whether those can­di­dates will be con­tent to run on the na­tional party’s mes­sage re­mains to be seen.

Democrats are al­ready un­der pres­sure from their left flank. Lib­er­als are push­ing to end the use of pri­vate pris­ons, es­tab­lish fed­eral gov­ern­ment-run health care, and pro­vide tax­payer fund­ing for abor­tions within Med­i­caid, Medi­care and the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram, among other changes.

Party lead­ers said that the fo­cus now is on eco­nomic is­sues, which the party ap­peared to lose track of in last year’s cam­paign sea­son.

“The No. 1 thing we did wrong was not present a strong, bold eco­nomic agenda to work­ing Amer­i­cans so that their hope for the fu­ture might re­turn again,” Mr. Schumer said. “Democrats have too of­ten hes­i­tated from di­rectly and un­flinch­ingly tak­ing on the mis­guided poli­cies that got us here, so much so that too many Amer­i­cans don’t know what we stand for.”

Repub­li­cans said Democrats were re­cy­cling old talk­ing points in an at­tempt to gloss over their near-uni­ver­sal op­po­si­tion to Mr. Trump’s agenda.

“Un­til Democrats make a real ef­fort to work with Repub­li­cans and Pres­i­dent Trump on the pri­or­i­ties vot­ers sup­ported last Novem­ber, they are go­ing to con­tinue to be lost in the elec­toral wilder­ness,” said Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­woman Ronna McDaniel.

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