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At This Point, Democrats Cannot Risk Crucial Swing States by Extinguishing the 'Bern'

by David Yee, published
"This is what Democrats united to beat Donald Trump look like. Get ready, Donald – we're coming." -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

Ever since the days of Lyndon Johnson's presidency, the standard playbook of the Democratic Party has been to put the far-left agenda off to the side to focus on center-left politics.

The 'Great Society' had soured too many swing voters' opinions on the Democrats, forming the so-called Reagan Democrats -- a group of hard-working, moderate voters who had little to no interest in most social programs. Democrats had to change their focus to win these valuable voters back.

Certain topics became almost taboo in Democratic campaigning for years, including the colloquial 3 G's of politics, God, gays, and guns, as well as abortion and expansion of social programs.

Bill Clinton's overhaul of the nation's welfare programs, to rewarding work and penalizing idleness, stood the test of time--largely unmodified by the next 16 years of presidents.

As with anything, the Democratic Party has swung back the other direction, with the far-left and progressive ideals demanding a place at the political table, regardless of whether the Democratic leadership 'wants' to address the issues.

And so now, with the primary season almost over, the Democrats have to figure out how to avoid socially excluding the progressives and creating a unity ticket, all while keeping the moderates from abandoning the party.

Even worse, they have to do this with a platform committee loaded with progressives.

With Bernie Sanders now openly guaranteeing to fight on past the primary season for a contested convention, what's the strategy going to be from now until the Democratic convention in late July?

1. The Democrats are going to have to accept that they won't please everyone within the party

This is almost too obvious, but the importance is overwhelming. Hillary Clinton has already been forced to run a more progressive campaign than she wanted -- her original 'Four Fights for You' has been completely derailed.

This might actually be the hardest of the strategies to accept and employ within the party.

Democrats are used to having a certain level of 'pride,' so to speak, on being the party of inclusion, holding together voters with many differing political objectives and opinions under one political banner without infighting.

That's about to come to an end, unless the Democrats can pull together like Sen. Warren has pushed for.

The Sanders campaign has brought thousands of first-time voters into the political process; the reality is that some won't back any other Democrat and are probably just going to stay home and not vote in the event Sanders doesn't become the nominee.

While the Democrats need to focus on retaining these voters, they simply have to accept that some of them are lost.

2. There are going to have to be clear-cut objectives from the progressive camp, not just blanket irritation of a 'rigged system'

The platform committee will hammer out most of the objectives into a single statement of party platform, but they are going to have to start using real verbiage instead of just the catch phrases.

This is a tough problem, because if anything they have over complicated their campaigning with too many issues.

In politics, a candidate cannot be all things to all people, and definitely cannot be the champion of every issue.

Regardless of who wins the nomination, a U.S. senator (former or present) will be on the ticket versus someone without national political baggage. This has always been an uphill battle, as highlighted by Bill Clinton's campaign against Senator Bob Dole.

Almost prophetically, Bill Clinton stated several times that it was easy to run against a senator, because compromise in the form of voting for 'bad' legislation to get their ultimate objective always makes them look like flip-floppers.

Democrats need to choose their battles wisely, because their opponent is all too willing to attack them on every front.

3. Inviting independents, center, and swing voters to the political table must remain a priority

To win any national or statewide election, the recipe is always the same: consolidate the base in the primary, then invite the independents, center, and swing votes in the general election.

Neither party has enough votes on their own merits to outright win at this point, with independents alone being close to outnumbering both parties combined.

With Hillary Clinton being the presumed nominee with her large lead in superdelegates, she's going to have to work to win over the independents who supported Sanders, especially in the open primary states.

At the same time, we have to remember that the U.S. is a federal republic, and the critical battleground states are where the election is most likely to be decided.

Out of the 10 battleground states, Clinton captured 7 in the primaries.

The mountain west, including Colorado and Nevada, are going to be key states to win for the Democrats because that would reduce the avenues for victory for the Republicans down to sweeping the big prizes (Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).

Colorado, as well as Wisconsin, were two of the states that Clinton lost -- and by big numbers.

Without capturing the valuable non-party vote in these two states, the math starts getting tough for the Democrats.

4. It's all about stopping Trump

James Carville created the simplest, yet brilliant strategy for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign: 'It's the economy, stupid.'

Regardless of where any other political dialog might bunny-trail, in the end it always came back to one focal point for the entire election -- the economy.

And it worked.

The Democrats of 2016 still have the same message, though slightly modified by the progressives denouncing a 'rigged system,' but the overall message of 2016 is going to be much, much simpler than even the economy.

I've said time and time again that an election between the lesser-of-two-evils is the lowest form of democracy, but the Democrats are going to have to accept this as fact and run with it.

However, the Democrats also need to be careful not to 'go negative' in their campaigning, which usually ends in disaster for their party.

After the Democratic convention...

The strategy is going to be the same even once the convention is over, but possibly in reverse order.

The modern Democrats have never had to face an entertainment-driven, say-anything-style candidate. They are used to flare and gusto being in their arsenal, not used as weapons against them.

While the media predicted a fractured, broken Republican Party for almost a year, it's now the Democrats who have to prove that they can unify behind whichever candidate comes out of the convention.

They don't have a lot of time to figure this out; the general election process is about to start. Time is of the essence for the two camps within the Democratic Party to find common ground and create a workable platform for 2016.

Photo Credit: Shawn M. Griffiths /

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