For Democrats reeling from defeat in November, rebuking Hillary Clinton’s election message and echoing Trump’s populist rhetoric is the way to revive the party. That comes with a tough appraisal of what went wrong in 2016.
“How we somehow over time became the party of elite donors and cocktail parties on the coasts is something that we should never have let happen,” Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who recently challenged House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for the party’s leadership position in the House, said in an interview.
“We’ve got to stand for working people. Working people think we left them,” said Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
This week Democrats seized on two issues meant to broaden their popularity among working class voters: coal miners’ benefits and “Buy America” provisions in an infrastructure bill.
Leading the charge are red-state and Rust Belt Democrats like Manchin and Ryan and others from regions that Trump won by large margins.Trump won surprise victories in old industrial states that Obama won by large margins, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri have been vocal, as well as Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. Many of them are up for reelection in 2018 and are in vulnerable seats.
In the Senate, they threatened to hold up a resolution to fund the government unless Republicans extend coal miners’ health fund for one year. Republican Senate Majority Leader McConnell wants to continue the fund, which was established in the 1940s, only until early next year. In the House and Senate, Democrats are protesting Republicans’ removal from a water infrastructure bill a “Buy America” provision that would require government contracts to use American-produced steel.
“We’ve got have ‘Buy America’ and we’ve got to have the miners,” Sen. McCaskill said heatedly on Thursday midday.