There can be little doubt that populism was the dominant theme of the election. This was difficult for many Washington Democrats to recognize and more difficult still for some to accept: After all, a middle-aged Democratic operative or progressive insider-activist type has been hearing his or her entire adult life, going back to Bill Clinton’s New Democratic resurgence, that the Democrats had to be careful about too fervent an embrace of populism.
Well, it seems safe to say that that age is over. It’s become obvious that the Democrats need to change. How can they attract more white working-class voters without repelling other blocs—African Americans, single women, young people, and other minorities—who are vitally important parts of their coalition? We asked four writers with very different backgrounds and viewpoints—a historian of political movements; a former Democratic congressman who represented a red district for many years; an African-American political scientist; and a Pennsylvania mayor who ran for U.S. Senate last year on a Bernie Sanders-esque platform—to share their thoughts.