Democrats are in a heap of trouble and unable to get out of their own way. Repeatedly warned about their lack of an appealing political message, they have elected to stand steadfast in their belief that they know what their voters want and need. Democrats have apparently refused to engage their base in formulating their legislative agenda as they move forward with a progressive, socialist, and/or centrist program.

This rapidly metastasizing political cancer is eating away at Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and undermining the effectiveness of Joe Biden, who is on a trajectory to become a one-term President regardless of whether he decides to run again. This electoral scenario has emerged since the 2018 and 2020 Congressional races.

In 2018, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a Queens, New York Democratic Socialist, who worked on the 2016 Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, came out of nowhere to defeat ten-term Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), the fourth ranking member of the House Democratic Caucus, and in line to succeed Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker. Ocasio-Cortez was one of several Progressives who won primaries against and/or defeated their Democratic predecessors: Ilhan Omar, who won a six candidate primary to replace Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) who resigned to run for Attorney General of Minnesota in 2018; Rashida Tlaib, who won the seat of the 26-term legendary Detroit Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in 2018 who was forced to resign amid a sex scandal; Ayanna Pressley who prevailed over ten-term Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) in 2018; Cori Bush who beat Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) in 2020; and Jamaal Bowman who crushed sixteen-term Rep Eliot Engel (D-NY).

These new House members ushered in increased diversity and unbridled hubris as they attributed their victories to their unique personas rather than to the political failures of their opponents.

The sources of these challengers’ electoral success were the fluctuating racial demographics of the aforementioned districts and the incumbents’ arrogance in not regularly returning to their legislative districts and engaging with their constituents.

They decided to speak for them rather than to them. This approach reached a crescendo during the recent Democratic intra-party fight over the physical and social infrastructure bills and has weakened the Party.

Exemplars of this Democratic dysfunction are well-intentioned progressive/socialists: Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley, also known as “the Squad;” Bowman, Bush, and other House Democrats elected since 2018 in response to the political excesses of the Trump administration, who are furiously fighting for their political agendas which sometimes run counter to the interest of the people they represent.

A shining example is Ocasio-Cortez’s blocking the building of an Amazon plant which would have brought thousands of jobs to her district because Jeff Bezos would not agree to everything she wanted and her recent vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill whose benefits are sorely needed in her district and that will also bring good-paying jobs to her residents.

Key Democratic leaders, Pramila Jayapal, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Sean Patrick Maloney, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) both subscribe to leftist-oriented political ideologies and have personal identities that define their approach to their leadership roles. And both are showing an inability to grasp the fractious political landscape and to develop an effective response to the looming Republican takeover of Congress in 2022.

These two individuals have insulated themselves with like-minded minions which inhibits their efforts to counter the Republican seizure of Democratic issues. For instance, since 1989 and until November 2021, the Democrats led Republicans by 20 or more points on education. But in a poll last week, Republicans had crept within three points of Democrats on this issue - 41 percent to 44 percent.

Republicans have essentially neutralized education as a Democratic organizing tool, and their previous supporters are abandoning them in droves. This reality was revealed in the 2021 election of Republican gubernatorial candidate, Glen Youngkin, in Virginia and the narrow 2021 reelection of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in New Jersey. Democrats are losing on a key issue for the 2022 midterms.

As noted earlier, Republicans are also recasting their school choice initiatives to appeal to a larger segment of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx voters, along with their White base, to serve as another wedge as they continue their incursions into the Democratic base. They are recruiting new benefactors and re-energizing old ones as they infuse low-income urban communities with billions of private-sector dollars to win friends and influence people.

Massive contributions to religious organizations and schools, charter schools, grassroots organizations and leaders, and the funders of local powerbrokers of color are winning friends and adherents. The Bradley, Walton, Broad, Gates, and other foundations are spearheading these efforts and are being supplemented by individual corporate titans.

In the meantime, Democrats have not meaningfully engaged the Presidents of the nation’s largest teacher unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in political strategizing for the 2022 midterms. Teachers and their voting family members and supporters were critical to 2020 Democratic taking control of Congress. Now they are squandering this triumph, refusing to accept what is achievable in search of the perfect.

Jayapal, chair of the CPC, is delaying Democratic legislative success, and Maloney, chair of the DCCC, is imperiling the likelihood of Democrats maintaining their majority in the House. Collectively and perhaps involuntarily, both are sabotaging Democrats as they head toward the 2022 midterms.

Yet, it is not too late! They still have a year to regroup: they could scrub the bipartisan infrastructure bill and highlight the importance of key components to members of their base. This must be done in bite-sized, easily grasped chunks that are informed by representatives of their constituent groups.

To name a few, these components include the removal of lead laterals in ethnic minority communities that are being saturated by lead poisoning; the extension and upgrade of broadband in rural communities; the repair of bridges and roads; the connection of communities to affordable transportation; the refurbishing of airports, roads and waterways; and environmental remediation.

Crafting messages that excite Democratic voters and their Republican counterparts is the key. But we are not hopeful that this will occur because so far, Democrats have failed in effective communications while the Republicans have been on point!

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell and BC.

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