In a recent appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show, Hillary Clinton expressed her strong disapproval of undecided voters in the upcoming election. In the eyes of the two time failed presidential candidate, these dissidents were nothing more than childish and needed to embrace the reality of the situation. “Get over yourself,” she said. “Those are the two choices.” Patronizing attitude aside, Clinton’s remarks underscore the entitlement and refusal to accept the reality which has and will continue to characterize the Democratic Party unless changes are made.

Upon losing to Donald Trump in the 2016 election, Democratic-aligned think tank The Third Way embarked upon a journey of discovery in Middle America with one goal: to find out why they lost. The think tank can best be described as Clinton-esque politics distilled. They outright reject partisanship and believe that means-testing and cooperation are the only paths to good governance. On their safari in Middle America, however, they found that these ideas were not as popular as they believed. From crank farmers who would never again vote Democrat to trade union men who dislike the Republicans but still feel the Democrats as lacking in terms of offerings, the Third Way, and Democratic Party policy at large, was confronted with the fact that their preferred strategies do not resonate with anyone except people who vote compulsively Democratic. Still, the think tank refused to even note down this notion. Instead of focusing on groups which the Democrats could reasonably depend on, like the aforementioned union workers, the group instead focused on winning over the right-wing die-hards who refuse any gesture other than moving the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to the right.

For years, the DNC national strategy has been overly focused on fostering alliances with the Republicans, even in the face of outright hostility. Mitch McConnell, the longtime Republican Senate leader openly stated his party’s refusal to cooperate during the Obama years – an arguably successful policy which has not been altered in the slightest. So, in the face of a political opposition which is obstinate at best, the DNC has bizarrely and consistently tried to extend an olive branch and build bridges. Hypothetical good intentions aside, by building bridges with an intransigent Republican Party, the Democrats are inadvertently signaling one of two possibilities, or even both. Either the Democrats are actually uncommitted to the liberal values they preach and are whole-heartedly willing to adopt the Right’s beliefs, or, they lack any sort of political survival instinct which would allow them to pursue their own goals. In any case, by consistently aiming for compromise, the Democrats have pushed themselves to the right over time, recently exemplified by President Biden referring to undocumented immigrants as “illegals” in a recent speech – a clear-cut Republican term.

To be clear, compromise and cooperation are not bad in and of themselves. As in any representative democracy, they are at times necessary or even good. However, they should not be the goals of a major political party. Politics are, above all, a conflict of interests which is a lesson the Democratic establishment seemingly does not understand and the Republicans have taken to heart. Therefore, compromise should be pursued mainly when necessary. If constantly creating compromises takes precedence over the pursuit of a coherent, long-term national political project, then, frankly, what is the point? By constantly kowtowing to the Republicans, the Democrats not only rob themselves of any opportunity to enact the policies they wish for but also bolster their opponents by ceding ground in the political arena.

Obviously the most recent and high-profile example of this was the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year. The Democrats easily had the means to prevent this during the Obama years. In his first term, Obama presided over a supermajority in Congress, meaning that Democrats could have easily passed legislation to enshrine abortion access as law. Yet, they did nothing. Then, later, even when the supermajority was lost, Obama and his Party could have put additional pressure on Judge Ruth Bader-Ginsburg to step down before her death. Yet, they did nothing. Plus in failing to do so, they facilitated the subsequent conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court.

The only reason the Republicans have yet to take complete control of the country, as they predicted before the last midterm elections, is their persistent inability to stop shooting themselves in the foot. Their overall obsession with abortion and gender identity of minors has clearly not worked as a national strategy. But this can only continue for so long until the Republicans adopt a better strategy. At this point, the Democrats are doomed unless they also change course.

Even now, the DNC’s strategy for Biden has relied heavily on the idea of the ‘lesser evil’. Through insisting that Trump will be worse on every issue from the economy, to minority rights, and to women’s bodily autonomy, the Democrats hope to win again in November of this year. Certainly, Trump will be worse for these marginalized groups and issues but that does not mean that Biden is still doing a good job. Insisting that Trump will cause persecution of immigrants, worsen women’s health nationwide, or promote homophobia may be true but that obscures the fact that all these things are already happening under Biden. Biden has not changed the inhumane holding facilities on the Mexican border, failed to challenge Texas Governor Abbott’s horrific border policy, and consistently fails to counter homophobic rhetoric and actions. Let’s not forget: voting for the lesser evil is still voting for evil.

Additionally, the strategy of “Trump is worse” implies that so long as the Republican candidate is more to the right, then the Democratic candidate is good in comparison. The long-term implications of this should be self-evident. This line of reasoning would then give any Democratic candidate the leeway to be as awful or ineffective as possible so long as they are comparatively better than their Republican counterpart.

It did not always have to be this way though, lest we forget the immense popularity Bernie Sanders mustered as a quasi-Democratic outsider. Sanders’ campaign focused on popular issues such as socializing healthcare or reducing the cost of education, winning him the favor of millions. Yet the DNC shot his campaign down, due in large part to their insistence upon the outdated style of politics the Third Way tried to boost. This is not to say that Bernie Sanders is a perfect candidate. His popularity, rather, should have been a signal to the Democratic establishment that there is another way to win elections. Nevertheless, we know this lesson fell on deaf ears, and the DNC put forth the historically unpopular Hillary Clinton.

If the Democrats want to remain a relevant political force in the United States, then they desperately need to change course. Means-testing and non-partisanship may have worked in the past, but those days are long gone. Instead of meekly focusing on compromise with an increasingly extremist Republican Party, the Democrats must instead hold firm to their goals and pursue them ambitiously while also ensuring meaningful material improvements and protections for average people. If not, the Democrats risk becoming simply a stopgap between Republican terms. Until that happens though, voting undecided or not voting at all should be seen as what it is: a protest against a party which refuses to represent the interests of its constituents.

Written by Reed McIntire, Edited by Sergio Uribe Henao
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