The Democratic Party has a golden opportunity in 2018 to take back the House of Representatives: Donald Trump is wildly unpopular (historically so), Republicans are trying to take healthcare away, and traditional democratic policies have never had more public approval. But running candidates on a solely an "anti-Trump" message is not going to get the votes they need.
Since the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, the Democratic Party has continued to shift rightward on the political spectrum. This catapulted the era of "neoliberalism" where traditional left populist policies were dropped or ignored in favor of so-called "centrism." Long time Democrats began cozying up to Wall Street banks and lobbyists and became head over heals for wasteful interventionist wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan. And it has been magnified since 2008. With the rise of right-wing tea party "populism" shortly after the election of President Obama, the Republican Party began decimating the Democrats in election after election with an (albeit, misplaced) energy not seen in decades. Since then, the Democrats have conceded 69 House seats, 8 Senate seats, 13 Governorships, nearly 1000 state legislative seats, and 27 State Legislative Chamber Majorities. And the Democratic Party has endured this annihilation because they have had a lackluster and uninspiring message since.
In order to win elections consistently, especially in heavily contested districts and swing states, voters need to be inspired and energized by a message of hope, action, and real change. But Democrats have failed (in many cases, intentionally) for years to put their money where their mouth is. They approved of Bill Clinton's push to repeal Glass-Steagal in 1999, widely considered a catalyst in the 2008 Recession. NAFTA which has cost Americans' 800,000 jobs and has decimated the manufacturing industry. Bush's insistence on meaningless war in Iraq without any evidence of WMD's which cost over $2 trillion. The civil rights crippling Patriot Act of 2001 which passed the Senate a by a whopping 99-1 margin. Passed on electing staunch progressive and Bernie Sanders' backer Keith Ellison to head the DNC chair. And with wide majorities in the House and Senate along with President Obama in 2008, failed to implement any form of public health care option in the Affordable Care Act. This is an abysmal and embarrassing track record for the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
So how can Democrats begin to stop the bleeding and fight back against this right-wing wave that has blanketed the country for nearly a decade? Leave centrism and neoliberalism in the rear view, embrace a bold progressive platform, and tap into the energy of young people. An FDR "New Deal" is exactly what the American people are starving for. And the data backs it up.
58% of Americans favor a publicly funded healthcare system such as medicare for all. 66% support raising the minimum wage with a plurality supporting a living wage. 72% are in favor major political money reform. 61% believe the wealthy do not pay their fair share in taxes. 62% support free public college and universities with a whopping 79% support from the millennial generation. These all used to be mainline Democratic Party ideals that have rarely, if ever, been adopted by the opposition.
Democrats also have a hefty margin of support among the younger generation. An eye-popping 57% of the millennial generation support the Democratic Party compared to just 37% for Republicans. Passing on the younger generation is a massive misstep for the party given their influence now outnumbers the Baby Boomers. But their voter turnout is the lowest among all major generations. Young people are, simply put, an untapped well of victories for decades to come waiting to be excited on a national and local level by policies and politics that matter most to them. And politicians like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi outright rejecting the idea of guaranteed healthcare are not going to be the ones to lead it.
Fortunately there's a blueprint for how to accomplish it without them: Enter, Bernie Sanders. A 74-year-old, unknown-at-the-time Senator from Vermont was able to tap that well and ride it to the Democratic National Convention with 23 state primary victories and 46% of the total vote. In fact, Sanders won the votes of more young people in the Democratic Primary alone than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the Presidential election combined. His message of economic and social justice resonated deeply with young people and set the foundation for his campaign.
The 2018 midterms are prime for the taking for the Democrats but it has to be earned. A weighted platform of single payer health care, tuition free college, raising taxes on the wealthy, supporting a living minimum wage, and ridding politics of the influence of mega donors will go miles to exciting the base and leading to victories for the party at every single level of government.