From the Appalachian regions of Ohio to the Iron Range of Minnesota and the northern reaches of Michigan and Wisconsin, across Iowa and Missouri and through the southern swaths of Indiana and Illinois—areas in which Bill Clinton triumphed and Hillary Clinton tanked—the quotes from the 72 rural Democrats Johnson interviewed read like a pent-up primal scream. And Terry Goodin’s comments pop out in particular. In the report, he says the Democratic Party is “lazy,” “out of touch with mainstream America,” relying on “too much identity politics” where “winners and losers are picked by their labels.” The Democrats in his district, he laments, “feel abandoned.
Goodin invited me to visit his 562-square-mile district and one of the stops we made over two days was at the Scottsburg garage his cousins operate. In the parking lot, Goodin ran into a man wearing a well-worn cap with a well-known slogan: “Make America Great Again.” Delmis Burns, I would learn later, drives a truck for a living and has known Goodin for more than 40 years and votes for him every time he runs because Burns, despite his preference in the presidential race, is in fact a Democrat. The two men fell into easy banter, and it didn’t take long for Trump to come up. Burns is still pleased with his choice. “They give ‘im hell,” he said, “and he gives it back.” At some point, Burns began talking about the time he was asked at work to train a new driver who was Muslim. He refused. “They’re taught to be nice to you,” he told Goodin, “and then they blow you up.” The comment floated uncomfortably between the two men, although maybe it was just me who felt like that—and the gregarious Burns soon was talking instead about his hat, and some guff he had gotten from somebody who wanted to “knock that off your head,” he said. “I told him, ‘Everybody’s gotta be doing somethin’ when the good Lord calls.’” That got a laugh out of Goodin, and before saying goodbye to Burns, Goodin asked about his “grandbabies.”
Here in this not even 10-minute interaction, I thought, was the nub of the Bustos report—and the challenge it presents to party leaders who will be asked to grapple with its primary recommendation that Democrats focus on economic matters and steer clear of confrontation on contentious social issues. In theory, it seems obvious the party would do what it must to secure the loyalty of additional voters; in practice, though, this sort of overture means peace-making with people like Burns, through the face-to-face pragmatism of people like Goodin, some of whose views bump up inconveniently against the agendas of interest groups and the platform and mores of the party as a whole. Is Burns worth wooing back? And is Goodin a walking relic—or a key cog in the future of the party? Either way, as Goodin argued in his introductory address to the legislature, this should not constitute grounds for disqualification as a Democrat. “I have fired a gun a time or two, and I am familiar with the Scriptures,” he said. “Some might think that makes me an outcast in my own party. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our caucus is a caucus that values all points of view. There’s enough space for a farm boy like me, as well as woolly liberals.”
In a nutshell, this is the advice of Bustos’ report: Widen the definition of Democrat.
“This is the face of what the party is going to have to accept if you want to be in the majority,” Johnson told me.
“If we call ourselves a big tent party,” Bustos said, “then we should act like it.”
I'm tired of hearing that only white guys from Indiana can save the Democrats. I'm tired of "making peace" with people who would soon as call me "one of the good ones" as they would vote for guys like Trump. I'm tired of being told that wanting a equal playing field is "identity politics" when the other party is openly running on promoting and maintaining white supremacy. I'm tired of being told my intolerance for bigotry is more of a problem than the bigotry itself.
Most of all, I'm tired of having to make excuses for people who have difficulty choosing between what the Republicans openly stand for and what the Democrats openly stand for.
It's not that hard, guys. One party wants to help everybody, the other party is currently dismantling Medicaid in my state.
The Trump administration took a major step Thursday to let states establish the first-ever work requirements for Medicaid recipients.
The policy guidance is the most concrete development yet toward achieving goal of tying Medicaid benefits to employment — a long-time conservative goal that has never been permitted since the health care entitlement program for the poor was created 52 years ago.
CMS in its letter to state Medicaid directors outlined the criteria it would use to approve state employment proposals that would require able-bodied, working-age Medicaid enrollees to get a job or participate in a related activity like job training for at least 20 hours a week in order to keep their health coverage. CMS Administrator Seema Verma has made it clear from the moment she took office last year that the Trump administration will approve such proposals, but requests from nearly a dozen conservative states have stalled with federal officials for months.
Democrats and liberal advocacy groups have warned they will go to court to block work rules as soon as the first state plan — likely Kentucky, and likely very soon — is approved. They argue that Medicaid is a health care program, and adding work requirements do not achieve that and may undermine it.
“By allowing states to impose harmful work requirements, the Trump Administration is endangering the life support systems millions of vulnerable Americans rely on every day," said Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
This is what Republicans have been wanting to do for 50 years, and now they are doing it. If you're still unsure about voting for the guys trying to stop them, well, I'm tired of expending my energy trying to convince you of the obvious.
Don't bitch about not enough white guys being in the Democratic big tent when the Republicans are too busy setting their tent on fire. If it's that important to you, well, Trump will take you.
And I know the next wiseass remark will be "They did go to Trump and that's why the Dems got wiped out." That's probably true. But if the fate of America comes down to trying to stop white folks from doing stupid crap, well, we've been fighting that battle for 400 years and taking whatever victories we can goddamn get.