Campaign 2016 Clinton
A supporter displays her Democratic donkey tattoo as Senator Tim Kaine, accompanied by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, speaks at a rally at Florida International University Panther Arena in Miami, Saturday, July 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

There’s no denying that the Democratic near-term future looks bleak. But in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly, out today, we offer fresh ideas about how the party can turn itself around. 

We begin with an honest look at what went wrong in 2020, when Democrats in Maine helped reelect GOP Senator Susan Collins, thus depriving the party of a more workable majority in the chamber. Monthly Editor Rob Wolfe spoke with a cross-section of Collins Democrats to see if they had any regrets. None did. The reasons they gave for sticking with her provide essential lessons for Democratic candidates this year and beyond. 

Democrats running in rural and working-class white districts usually end up as roadkill.  But political researcher Robin A. Johnson of Monmouth College in Illinois spoke with scores of such lawmakers in ten Midwestern states who have survived and even thrived. Their collective wisdom, he reports, holds the key to how Democrats can gain durable majorities in Congress and statehouses across the country.

It’s no secret that vote by mail scares the bejesus out of Donald Trump. But some Democrats are resistant, too, out of fear that it disenfranchises Black voters. That myth was shattered in 2020, when the District of Columbia, which is 43 percent Black, ran a high-turnout election in which every registered voter received a ballot by mail. As Ellie Creamer reports, a bill before the D.C. city council to make its vote-by mail system permanent could change the national conversation.

Back in 1989, Elaine Kamarck co-authored “The Politics of Evasion,” a scathing indictment of the Democratic Party’s losing electoral record and a battle plan for winning.  Her work presaged the rise of Bill Clinton. In our new issue, the Brookings Institution scholar updates her thinking in a review of historian Michael Kazin’s What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party.

Finally, I take a stab at writing the State of the Union address that Joe Biden should give. 

Enjoy the issue!

Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he is writing a book on America’s involvement in the Greek War of Independence.