Excerpt from a Politico article on Southern Democrats:
Phil Bredesen, the Democratic governor of Tennessee from 2003 to 2011, has a message for a party that may, after Saturday’s runoff in Louisiana, have no senators from the Deep South: “I come out of the business world. If you have a product that’s not working, you don’t say, ‘Our customers are lazy’ or ‘Our customers don’t know what’s best for them.’ The ones that are successful say, ‘I need a better product.’”
Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a tenacious survivor, is fighting against enormous odds to hold onto her seat in this weekend’s election, but among her fellow party members, the post-mortems have already begun. Still, interviews with more than a dozen elected Democratic officials, strategists and academics found some optimism that the party can find at least selective success across the South in the not-distant future, particularly in states with growing minority populations like North Carolina and Georgia.
But it will take more than demographics to rescue the once-dominant model of the centrist Southern Democrat, they agree: The party needs to spend less time on divisive social issues and more on middle-class economic concerns, and then hope that Barack Obama’s departure from the White House prompts skeptical white voters to give them a second look.
“We’re just trotting out the same old nostrums: a little class warfare here and a nod to labor unions there and more money for X, Y and Z programs,” said Bredesen. “People are looking for a vision.”
Most believe that vision will be found in pocketbook issues, particularly related to the middle class, including a revival of the more populist economic message that resonated during the first half of the 20th century. Support for student loans, Medicare and Medicaid, equal pay for equal work – all can be framed in a way that strengthens and bolsters the working class, Democrats say.
…Even as Democrats were getting swamped, Arkansas overwhelmingly passed a minimum wage hike. Polling shows heavy support in the region for expanding Medicaid, reforming student loans and giving women equal pay for equal work.
Former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said all those things are good, but Democrats need a broader, more comprehensive plan. “To me, the sweet-tea-and-grits crowd still likes our economic issues,” said Musgrove, who served from 2000 to 2004 and narrowly lost a 2008 Senate race. “Democrats need an economic message based on opportunity: education, job training, infrastructure rebuilding, and even health care – where voters know that Democrats can make a difference in these issues.”
Bredesen, the former Tennessee governor, put it more bluntly. “We’re known for gay rights, immigration, climate change and an unpopular health plan,” he said. “I think we’re on the right side on all those issues, but it’s not what people are looking for right now from government.
“I’ll be honest: it passes my understanding how particularly the past few years we’ve ignored the economic pain that’s been created in this country,” he added.
Bredesen said Democrats who are thinking about running for office need to adopt what he calls “the Walmart test.”
“When you think about what your platform is going to be, go to the nearest Walmart and stop someone in the aisle and tell them what you’re going to run on,” he said. “If that engages them and they’re interested, then you have a plan.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/mary-landrieu-democrats-113358.html#ixzz3L7TQHYn0