By now, most Americans have heard that Democrat Conor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania last week sent a strong message to Republicans, namely about President Donald Trump’s unpopularity and the growing concern with the upcoming midterm elections. However, there is a case to be made that the 33-year-old’s shocking upset sent just as important of a message to members of his own party.
Lamb is not the typical Democrat. While he supports affordable health care, social security and eliminating student debt, he also supports Trump’s tariffs and opposes abortion — although he accepts the Supreme court ruling that it is a right. This is a far cry from Democrats like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. While it is foolish for Paul Ryan and Trump to label Lamb as a “Republican-lite,” he certainly is not an extreme liberal either.
The fact is, Lamb, like most of the United States, falls somewhere in the middle. He is undoubtedly a Democrat but does not necessarily agree with every aspect of the Democratic Party. He is not caught up in the sharp partisan divide of Washington, D.C., and is unafraid to voice beliefs that may be unpopular with those on the far-left of the political specturm.
Democrats should take a page from Lamb’s book come the midterms. At its core, this country is, and has always been, moderate, which is why the majority party is constantly changing. Voters have shown a willingness to vote for a politician on the other side of the aisle as long as the politician still maintains many of the fundamental values of the region
A problem the Democratic Party has is buying into the falsity that all Democrats are alike. This is not to say that the party must completely abandon its values. There must be a negotiation between politicians and constituents. Lamb was able to flip a district that Trump won by 20 points in 2016 by listening to the people. He is still clearly a Democrat and embodies the issues his party holds dear, but he also acknowledges his
Lamb and the Democratic Party should not bend on core issues, such as abortion, LGBTQ rights, immigration and a slew of other matters that they believe are pivotal to the fundamental values of this country. That being said, the inability to compromise with constituents on the campaign trail can be costly at the polls.
Lamb is an Ivy League-educated liberal Democrat who could easily fit this mold of “latte liberalism,” but instead understands the values of Pennsylvanians in his district and drifts more toward the center than the far-left. While extreme liberalism may win in big cities, rural districts tend to be more conservative and are willing to vote for Democrats as long as they remain at least semi-centrist. It is a strategy that worked for Bill Clinton in the ‘90s and is now working for Lamb.
With every seat in Congress being pivotal to deciding the ultimate fate of the Trump presidency, Democrats would be wise to heed the strategy of their newest colleague.