Possibly the worst insult a Democrat can receive in this election cycle is that Republicans would vote for them. And yet, that’s the ringing endorsement Joe Biden received from former first lady of Iowa, Christie Vilsack, in Creston, Iowa.
“I like to think about how my candidate will appeal to independents and I want my candidate to appeal to my Republican friends as well,” she said. She presumably meant it as a compliment, but it’s an incredible put down to a party struggling to get it right in 2020.
With the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the Republicans have become a party of border walls, racist tweets, and corruption. Appealing to that base in 2020 is a futile endeavor, not only because Trump has a 90 percent approval rating among Republicans, but because to do so would be to compromise on core Democratic principles.
In 2017, Bernie Sanders endorsed then Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello. Mello, who previously served as a state senator in Nebraska, is a Democrat who opposes abortion. Sanders’ endorsement was a part of a failed unity tour with the Democratic National Committee. And Sanders refused to apologize saying that compromise is needed to win.
It’s like we learned nothing in 2016, which saw the election of the most ridiculous reactionary as our tweeter in chief. We learned nothing even after as progressive candidates swept into the House in 2018, most of them from the middle parts of the country and red states.
And now, as we enter 2020, Democrats still refuse to learn anything. We continue bending and breaking to make concessions to an electorate that doesn’t want anything to do with us. Call me when Republicans start doing the same hand wringing — when the GOP starts reaching out to abortion activists and pro-choice groups, call me when the GOP even considers Medicare for all. My number is at the end of this column.
The concept of building bridges is a faulty one. Building a political bridge involves one group making concessions — one group making compromises, while the other holds the line. And the people always asked to sacrifice their beliefs and values are the women, disability rights advocates, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and minority groups who are the casualties of politics and policies and all of this “compromise.”
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During the summer of 2016, I sat in a cabin in Wisconsin on a family vacation, where I was the lone Democrat. I called that trip the Republican national convention. I sat with family members and begged them not to vote for Trump, I begged them to consider the cost on the environment and immigration and refugees. They listened, promised me they wouldn’t. Maybe they would abstain. They considered themselves, after all to be good, Christians and agreed, Trump’s behavior was repugnant. Yet, months later, when it came time to vote, they went into the booth and voted for him anyway.
In 2017, I divorced that family.
In 2020, I wish the Democrats would do the same. I wish in this upcoming election, we would stop letting the party and platform that has made hate great again, dominate the conversation. And I wish we’d stop buying into the lie that Democrats should run a Republican candidate.