Winning the Political Marathon

The Democratic Party has clear evidence—and a mandate—for pragmatic, pro-growth policies that benefit everyone. We can’t go back to business as usual.

By Winston Fisher and Sly James

Two months and one attempted coup later, the dust is finally starting to settle on one of the most unsettling election cycles in history. Voters showed up in staggering numbers despite every natural and man-made obstacle under the sun. Both parties’ bases were highly motivated, and the media fueled heated debates over which side would prevail—and later which side did prevail.

Whether or not the radical right will acknowledge it, the result was clear. Now, that we’ve had time to pore over county-by-county returns, it’s equally clear that the election was decided not by either base but by moderate, swing voters. It’s true, Biden and Harris’s path to victory relied on massive voter turnout, including in urban Democratic strongholds. But the decisive votes were cast by those who put more stock in real policies than splashy Twitter rants. These are the votes that the Democratic Party must prioritize and fight for every day over the next four years.

The numbers tell the story. According to this year’s exit polls, moderates represented thirty-eight percent of the electorate. Biden won this demographic nearly two-to-one. The actual number of swing states increased as well—owing not to sudden base voter surges but to the steady rise of moderate voters in those battlegrounds.

What it Really Means

For years, the Democratic Party has sustained an internal fight between moderates and the far left. The media—prioritizing ratings over substance—has stoked the flames by granting an outsized platform to those who scream the loudest. The far left says Trump was defeated because Democrats temporarily set aside their differences. To defeat the evil Trump, the narrative goes, we united around a nominee in ways we didn’t in 2016. Now that the threat is gone—at least until 2024—they are pressuring President Biden to appoint far-left nominees and champion their favorite causes. We can expect this pressure to continue for the next four years.

With respect, we disagree. Not only with the rhetoric coming from the far left, but also with the media’s portrayal of their importance in the party. The facts show that Bernie Bros didn’t hand Biden his victory; he won decisively thanks to the support of suburban voters and independents, with a center-left agenda grounded in economic opportunity—one that appealed to the millions of moderates and swing voters who supported Trump over Hillary in 2016.

A Sustainable Model for Winning More Elections

Moderate voters in the Rust Belt, the Southwest, the Midwest, and in purple states like Georgia and Texas are turned off by the far left’s rhetoric and many of their signature positions. In fact, the aversion among moderates to radical positions is a rare example of bipartisanship: they aren’t buying the snake oil that the Sedition Caucus has on offer, either. However, they are listening to reasonable, substantive voices on bread-and-butter issues like education, healthcare, infrastructure, and access to capital to rebuild small businesses.

Facing an existential identity crisis, Republicans are grappling with the same question that has plagued the Democratic Party: do we align our agenda with the loudest voices or the silent majority? Moderates are waiting for an answer from both sides, and Democrats can’t afford to take a gamble on an untested and polarizing platform. The demographics that Republicans will be laser-focused on bringing back into the fold are the same voters who are critical for a sustainable Democratic majority. We can’t risk losing hard-won moderate votes due to a hard tack to the left that allows Republicans to make amends. The Biden administration has a chance to hold onto these voters for election cycles to come rather than catching the rebound in the wake of Republican failures. But that will only happen if we focus on policies that address the issues that American families grapple with every day, not pandering to far-left echo chambers.

Georgia is a case in point. In the presidential race, thirty-eight percent of voters there saw themselves as moderates—sixty-four percent of whom voted for Biden. During the Senate runoff, Democratic wins were propped up not only by Black voters but also by gains in rural and working-class counties.

Across the country, voters are still largely centrist in their views. Democrats can’t let their fear of taking flak on social media influence their campaigns or their approach to governing. Biden proved that a record number of Americans support a center-left, progressive agenda that is both achievable and impactful and creates economic opportunity for them, their families, and future generations. Now, Democrats must deliver the goods for all Americans.

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