Jim Webb has news, and it will only surprise his — formerly? — fellow Democrats. The erstwhile presidential contender from 2015 tells Meet the Press host Chuck Todd the obvious, which is that they lurch to the Left and their relentless focus on identity politics has alienated most of the country. Both trends have created a sense of “aristocracy” to their politics that has left the working men and women of middle America with no place to go … except to Trump:
Webb said the Democratic Party’s message has “been shaped toward identity politics … And they’ve lost the key part of their base,” he said.
“The people who believe that regardless of any of these identity segments, you need to have a voice in a quarters of power for those that have no voice. And we’ve lost that for the Democratic Party.”
Webb said the Democrats haven’t done the kind of “self reflection” they needed starting in 2010.
“You’ve lost white working people. You’ve lost flyover land, and you saw in this election what happens when people get frustrated enough that they say, ‘I’m not going to take this,'” he said.
“There is an aristocracy now that pervades American politics. It’s got to be broken somehow in both parties, and I think that’s what the Trump message was that echoed so strongly in these flyover communities.”
When telling Chuck Todd that “they’ve lost a key part of their base” from both trends, Todd picks up on the third-person plural and asks whether Webb has left the Democratic party. He doesn’t quite answer, but the rest of the interview makes the answer plain. Webb didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him. And it’s pretty clear that they were happy to do so at the time.
Now? The party seems unwilling to abandon its progressive, identity-politics extremism, and that has House Democrats in particular less than sanguine about any potential reboot. Roll Call’s Rema Rahman reports that the caucus retreat tried to rally members back to the same themes that lost them four elections in a row, and left some concerned that the party still isn’t listening:
House Democratic leaders say their caucus is united, but even a minimal survey of lawmakers indicates skepticism of the messaging, an unclear path on strategy, and merely the beginning of grappling with what went wrong in an election that left them in the minority six years running.
“The mood of the members is very positive, open, confident, humble enough to listen to other ideas,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said at the Democrats’ issues retreat here. “There’s a real, deep commitment to working families in our country and that’s what unifies us.”
“While we fight that fight every day, we didn’t communicate that message in a way that was received,” Pelosi said, referring to last year’s election that locked them out of power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. “Never again will we go into an election where people don’t know that Democrats are there for working families.”
That message, though, might not be enough for all members of her caucus.
Democrats have insisted through four elections that their problem has been messaging, and it has become painfully clear that this answer is nothing more than an elaborate form of denial. The problem isn’t messaging — it’s an agenda focused on the hobby horses of Academia and coastal elites. Until Democrats rid themselves of the leadership that serves those agendas exclusively, their “Thelma and Louiseing” will continue its arc to the bottom of the political canyon.