Democrats Need to Quit Worrying About Winning and Start Leading
Why the party needs to lean into its values and focus on the future
Two years ago on Halloween, I was staring down the final week of a punishing campaign cycle and anticipating a painful victory. I wrote a piece about how we were about to learn the wrong lessons from the 2016 Presidential election cycle. At the time, I was focused on the misinterpretation of the real and profound angst in the American electorate on both the Left and Right. Unfortunately, two years later, nearly everything I said still feels deeply true: Our leaders need to focus on progress over power and most citizens feel ignored by political parties more interested in point-scoring than leadership.
Now I worry that we’re about to misinterpret the results of another election cycle, furthering (and perhaps accelerating) the downward spiral of our politics. What was missing then, and is still needed now, is a more explicit prescription for how we, as a country, begin to walk away from what seems like an inexorable downward slide and move toward a future in which we can reclaim our “only in America” story for everyone.
Current conventional wisdom is focused on just how big the Blue Wave of 2018 is going to be. Will Democrats claim the Senate? The House? By how much? Who will be the new Speaker? These questions obscure the larger and more critical conversation we need to be having: how and why we have ended up with this level of dysfunction and violence in U.S. politics, and what needs to change — not just for the Democratic Party, but for the country.
Democrats have lost the ability to articulate why we believe what we believe.
Having spent the last decade working in politics as a digital and technology leader in the Obama campaigns, I’ve been a co-conspirator in the Democratic Party’s digital revolution. But over the last few years, while I have tried to focus on how we rebuild the party itself, what I’ve witnessed is a party increasingly focused on more technology and better tactics as its principal answer to its disorganization and irrelevance. What I don’t see is a focus on the values, ideas, and other fundamental building blocks of citizen-centric…