Mark Penn and Andrew Stein argue in a New York Times Op-Ed piece that Democrats should reject the “siren calls” of the left and move back to the center in order to win elections. Penn should know: From 1995 to 2008, he was the former pollster and senior adviser to those paragons of centrism, Bill and Hillary Clinton. Stein is the former president of Manhattan borough and New York City Council who was convicted of tax evasion in 2011 and endorsed Donald Trump for president last year.
The essence of their argument is not new: that Democrats have lost elections by advocating big government and failing to appeal to working class voters on the core issues they care about most: trade, immigration, jobs and the economy. In endorsing Trump, Stein wrote in a Wall Street Journal Op Ed piece: “He (Trump) is for strong pro-growth policies like reducing the marginal and corporate tax rates and eliminating thousands of job-killing and business-stifling regulations, the biggest of which is ObamaCare.”
That’s one point of view, mostly shared by Republicans and, sadly, too many so-called Democrats. Here’s another view: Democrats have lost elections because they became too centrist, caved to political expediency, and used polls to determine their positions on important issues rather than standing up for core Democratic principles. Those principles include the need to guide and regulate capitalism so the economic benefits of the economy don’t flow only to those at the very top of the income scale.
Ensuring that economic benefits are fairly distributed is not “big government” or “job killing regulation” as many Republicans and corporate Democrats, such as Penn and Stein, would have you believe. It’s fair government and we need more, not less of it.
When Democrats stand-up for equality and opportunity for all, without equivocation, in plain language, as they did in the earlier times after W.W. II and, more recently, as part of the Bernie Sanders campaign, maybe they will regain the mantle as “the Party of the People” and start winning elections again.