This article originally appeared on The Hill
The DC bubble is strangling the DNC
That’s how former Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) described the DNC, levying a blistering critique that echoes the frustration of many of my fellow Democrats: the party has been weighted down by D.C. elites who no longer represent working Americans.
As the fight unfolds for the party’s new chair, the two leading candidates are facing headwinds.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) believes that our 2016 loss was largely the result of Secretary Clinton’s poorly run campaign. Ellison argues that we just need to better organize our base of women, minorities, and urbanites to win again.
This embrace of identity politics is part of the reason that many of us believe we’re in this electoral mess. We argue that people vote with their minds, not their genitals or skin color.
The other major candidate – Labor Secretary Tom Perez – is a well-known lawyer and long time D.C. operator who was assessed as President Obama’s most liberalcabinet member. That makes it hard for us to appeal to moderates. He was also a staunch supporter of Clinton, which raised legal concernsduring the fall.
That leaves a handful of other party faithful to consider, along with dark horse candidates like Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
As electors sort through their options, they will be eying leaders that propose paths to victory in all 50 states. After all, the party used to be competitive in rural and urban districts alike.
And in some places, it still is. Just ask a small town bartender in rural Washington State.
In early 2016, the colorfully nicknamed Democrat Skate Pierce – a local barkeep – won an election for city council in eastern Washington. This is quite an accomplishment: Skate won in a Republican town. In a Republican county. And in a Republican congressional district.
Skate’s path to victory is illuminating. When he settled in his hometown of Clarkston, he saw that things had gone awry. The city council lacked civility; people were often told to “shut up” during public meetings. The town’s infrastructure was crumbling and uninviting. Finally, citizens voted to legalize marijuana but city hall refused to honor the results.
They ignored the will of the people.
At his pub, Skate shared these frustrations with customers – Republicans and Democrats alike. They agreed with him. In short order, Skate was running for office. No one from the national or state party came to his aid. Instead, he relied on friends for election advice and money.
Skate ran a traditional campaign, putting up yard signs and knocking on doors. He managed to win over the “old retired guys” who came in for coffee each day.
He also reached out the town’s Republican Party chairman to ask for his support. The result? He got it.
Skate spoke of the importance of small businesses. He advocated for limited city government that promoted the town’s rural roots. And he offered pragmatic solutions, like flexible city ordinances on property use. (Beekeeping and chicken coops are allowed. No roosters though. Much too loud.)
In short, the community saw Skate as a hard working, common sense citizen.
On election night, something wonderful happened: conservative voters in rural Washington booted out three Republicans and installed three Democrats in their place. That included bartender Skate Pierce.
When I asked Councilman Pierce about whether elected Democrats in D.C. could replicate his success nationally, he was doubtful. “I don’t really trust them. They seem driven by ideology. And they’re ineffective.”
He paused, adding, “They’re also smug. It’s as if you’re some kind of idiot if you don’t share their opinions.”
I asked him what he thought of the DNC. “It’s all lawyers and political science majors… I’m pretty sure the past chairwoman – Debbie Wasserman-Shultz – has a master’s degree in political campaigning.” (He is correct.)
So how can the party move forward if it’s so broken?
Skate argued that the next DNC chair should focus on recruiting and training pragmatic candidates with real world experience. “A true citizen government,” Skate offered. “Teachers, doctors, professors, small business owners and blue-collar workers.”
In other words, he wants to drain the swamp of D.C. elites. “Public service shouldn’t be a lucrative career.”
Second, he agreed that our message to the American people should echo the 10 core principles that make up Our American Oath. One addition, though: he emphasized the need for common sense immigration reform and border security.
What about those D.C. elites? Skate didn’t mince words. “Get out of the way.”
And if they don’t? The Councilman said there would be one path left: party revolt. He sees a coalition of odd bedfellows like Bernie SandersDemocrats, Libertarians, Independents, and curious Trump supporters eager for change.
In other words, a revolution based on compromise and broad American values.
As luck would have it, revolutionary ideas have a proud history in American pubs like Skate’s. Consider Tun Tavern: it hosted George Washington and the Continental Congress, and served as the birthplace of the U.S. Marine Corps.
If Democrats were smart, our next DNC chair would visit Clarkston and meet with folks like Skate. Over a pint of beer and some straight talk, the party just might avoid a messy revolt – and make Democrats great again.