As Democrats cruise toward their next debate later this month, and consider how far their party should move left along the way, here are some electoral facts to consider. Moderate voters have long been one of the most reliable constituencies for Democrats. Exit polls show that Democratic presidential candidates have won a majority of voters who identify themselves as moderates—as opposed to liberals or conservatives—in every election since 1988. Put differently, Democrats have carried moderate voters in every election since Ronald Reagan left the scene. But just prevailing among moderates isn’t enough. To win nationally, history shows, Democrats need to win them decisively. In every presidential election Democrats won in that time span, they carried moderates by more than a dozen percentage points. In the elections they lost—in 1988, 2000, 2004 and 2016—they failed to carry moderates by such a margin.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has pulled the party left over the past four years, continues to set the pace. He already has proposed free medical care, free college tuition, college debt forgiveness and a $16 trillion climate-change plan. Then, over the weekend, his campaign said he would be unveiling a plan for the federal government to pay off $81 billion in Americans’ past-due medical debt. Not every Democrat is embracing the Sanders agenda, of course. But he isn’t an outlier either; along with former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Sanders stands in the top tier of Democratic candidates.
Meantime, the moderate ranks are thinning. Mr. Biden, who certainly is a moderate by today’s standards, remains the leader of the Democratic pack, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar will join him on the debate stage later this month. But other moderate voices are fading away: Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has left the race to run for the Senate, and Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Tim Ryan, former Rep. John Delaney, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock —all of whom argued for a more moderate agenda in the first two Democratic debates—have failed to qualify for the next one. That is just one sign that the primary-season energy is high on the left wing of the party this year. It is a dynamic that has some Democrats worried that the party has simply stopped talking to many of the moderate voters who again could prove critical in the general election.
Mr. Zogby worries these traditional Democrats in the heart of the country aren’t hearing from today’s Democratic Party, focused as it is on millennials and coastal enclaves. “People will call them everything,” Mr. Zogby says. “They’re white working-class, moderate, ethnic votes. They’re swing voters, they’re Reagan Democrats.” He adds: “When I speak to them they say we didn’t leave the Democratic Party. They left us. They stopped talking to us.” Mr. Trump, of course, did talk to them in 2016, and attracted enough of them in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to win the White House, even while losing so many votes along the coast that he failed to win the national popular vote. A repeat is entirely possible, even though some of these moderate voters actually have been harmed by Trump trade policies.... One problem for Democrats, he adds, is that the national party’s current culture isn’t geared toward reaching such voters. Indeed, many Democrats think the 2020 election will be won simply by mobilizing the party’s progressive base. History, though, suggests that is a risky proposition.https://www.wsj.com/articles/democrats- ... 1567432578