An explicitly “centrist” message, designed to lure Republicans, does not work, and Democrats steadily chasing Republicans to the right has been shown a massive failure all across the country. What can work, however, is a campaign centered on economic populism, since this has proven cross-over appeal – in fact, such messages are behind the previous success of Democrats in much of the country prior to the rightward realignment of our political landscape. My principles will be clear and my positions progressive, but they will be cast in economic terms so that they can best be understood and appreciated by voters who are not interested in the moral priorities Democrats consider vital. Focussing my messaging to suit the characteristics of the district – by hammering home kitchen-table economic issues – allows us to expand our coalition and gain enough votes to win.
One way to see the value of this is to consider that, for all their massive differences in social policy and personal integrity, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both hit populist notes in their campaign rhetoric which had substantial bipartisan appeal. A massive post-election survey of 50,000 voters suggests that up to 12% of Bernie’s primary voters went for Trump in the general election. Finding a way to reach that fraction of the electorate can give us much of the difference between Republican and Democratic votes in the 42nd. That ultimately Trump’s rhetoric is dishonest, and his policies mostly their opposite, is beside the point – what mattered was his effort to channel the frustrations of the working class. If Democrats stand firmly for the working class above all – a proposition that works well with our priorities in general – then I believe a portion of Trump’s coalition can be attracted to our ticket.
Another way in which I can reach out to independents and NPPs is my own non-partisan mentality and outsider mentality. Yes, my views are consistently progressive, but I am not a tribal person by nature, and will review all policies, issues, and bills on their own merits, on their own details, and determine what is in the best interests of the 42nd. My background is in policy analysis, not as a creature of machine politics, and I will let my principles guide my legislative identity, not partisan calculations.