Democrats must embrace politicians like Nina Turner who don’t follow the party line: Lucas M. Blower
AKRON, Ohio – Politicians are unpopular in the United States. and only so, because they are almost universally unpopular. We hardly agree on anything in this country. We disagree on social issues, racial issues, gender issues, class issues – indeed, 85% of registered voters described Americans as deeply divided over their values in a late 2020 poll. .
Despite all these disagreements, we find common ground to insult our politicians. According to Gallup, the last time Congress broke even was in 2003. By the end of 2020, that approval rate had fallen to 15%. With this still low approval rating, we celebrate the small wins. Earlier this year, when a series of stimulus checks pushed Congressional approval ratings below 30, it was hailed as a hit in the press – regardless that over 60% of Americans were still united in their distaste for Congress.
It’s no secret that politicians are unpopular. But it seems only one of our political parties has learned the lesson that what really unites Americans is our aversion to politics.
The GOP regularly presents candidates who rail against the system. It’s a winning strategy. And one that the GOP establishment quickly embraced. This of course created some embarrassment, as a party full of politicians hating politicians is not exactly a cohesive governing coalition. Yet this oxymoronic party controls the federal judiciary, has an effective veto over any action in the Senate, and has a more than decent chance of winning back the House in 2022.
Here in Ohio they are doing even better, controlling all levels of state government.
Democrats, meanwhile, are struggling, especially in Ohio. We were a swing state. But we were stuck on the GOP. And not by small margins. In Ohio, the former president – who plays the politician hating politicians – beat the Democratic nominee by 8 percentage points in 2016 and 2020.
There is a lesson here for Democrats. While the GOP establishment has welcomed its fiery new members, the Democratic leadership is largely pushing its members to stick to the party line. The consequence of this forced orthodoxy is that the Democratic Party has ceded the voices of political skeptics to the GOP. And the results have been disastrous for Ohio Democrats.
But there is good news for Ohio Democrats. We have candidates who can compete for the voices of those who distrust the establishment, and not just with empty conspiratorial rhetoric that is the main draw of those on the right. We have progressive Democrats in Ohio who have real answers for those left behind by the people in power. Foremost among them is former State Senator Nina Turner, who combines her criticism of the establishment with her support for policies that will bring real and lasting change in people’s lives.
For candidates like Senator Turner to be successful, the Democratic Party must give them the opportunity to criticize the establishment. Right now, however, they are doing the opposite. The National Democratic Party is speaking out against Senator Turner, saying she is too “divisive”.
But, if it divides, it is only among the DC elite. At home, she is a unifier, bringing together a broad coalition of voters from all ideological backgrounds. And this broad unification is only possible because it is ready to criticize the establishment.
If the Ohio Democratic Party is to be successful, it should field more candidates like Senator Turner. This can lead to a division in Washington, but that’s good. On the one hand, it is just good politics to denigrate politicians. But, more importantly, if Democrats continue to stifle criticism from their left, they will continue to cede skeptics to the right. The result will be ingrained irrelevant to the party in Ohio, but worse than that for our citizens – a broken government.
Lucas M. Blower is an Akron attorney and a member of the precinct committee of the Summit County Democratic Central Committee.
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