Enough About “The Base!”

So often I hear from my fellow Democrats that the way to win elections is just to “turn out the base.” What counts as “the base” is completely different depending who you ask. To far left progressives, the base is far left progressives. To Hillary supporters, the base is black people and women. In other words, the base is whatever group of Democratic voters is most like the person talking (or whoever they think they’re most like, anyway.) And apparently all we have to do is focus on these people exclusively and we’ll win.

Well, that was our strategy in 2016 and look where that got us. We can’t win the presidency on “the base” alone. The “women and minorities are the base” crowd thinks we need to just keep doing the exact same thing and we’ll magically get different results. The progressive crowd thinks that we should drop everyone else and suck them off, just like we did in the ‘80s (because that was totally an effective strategy.) That’s what this whole nonsense about the base is, people want the party to cater to their entitled asses and refuse to compromise on the tiniest thing.

In reality, elections are won by coalitions. Obama didn’t win by only talking to young people and minorities, he tried to reach out to everyone, and he was rewarded with overwhelming victory. You don’t win in Indiana by only talking to “the base.” More importantly, you don’t win in Ohio with that strategy. If we’re going to do well, we’re going to have to respect people who aren’t like us, even if we don’t agree with them. And we’re going to have to compromise on some things, especially in our messaging but sometimes also on policy.

People also need to keep in mind even “the base” is not homogeneous. It’s progressives, it’s minorities, and until the last election it was also factory workers in the Rust Belt. Northeast Ohio used to be solidly blue even in years the Democrat lost in Ohio, but Hillary’s win there was narrow, and in some counties like Trumbull she lost (they voted for Obama in a landslide in 2012.) Hillary lost by over 8%, the worst a Democrat has done here since the ‘80s. There are people who have voted for Democrats their whole lives who voted for Trump. We cannot win in Ohio without getting those voters back, and we’re not going to do that by continuing to ignore them.

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