How to Win

The Kind of Democrat Who Can Win in the South—or Anywhere

It’s how I won in Columbus, Georgia. People want progress. They just want it to be implemented in a pragmatic way.

In Columbus, Georgia, we believe in good government, and we have a long history of it. At the local level, we do not care for the partisan hooey - a technical term – that may impede the delivery of that good government.

Columbus is a city of 200,000 people, ninety-miles southwest of Atlanta. Columbus is a highly diverse, minority-majority community, and home to the international headquarters of Aflac and TSYS. It also is home to one of the world’s largest military training bases, the Ft. Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence.

As a longtime Democrat, I’ve had the privilege of being elected twice to the non-partisan position of Mayor of Columbus. There, I learned something useful to our current national dialogue: people embrace progressive ideals, they simply want them pragmatically implemented. Sure, this pragmatism is more work because the elected leaders cannot rely on either the partisan appeal or moral objective of the proposed policy, but must provide a transparent assessment of how the policy and its process impacts all citizens. The resulting information touches everyone and presents an opportunity for broader consensus.

It turns out that citizens like progress. They are excited by the future, and they embrace leaders who can take them there. Citizens want a government that works and to which they feel connected. Basically, citizens want pragmatic progressive leadership.

All of this made me think: In this Trumpian alternate universe we are enduring, are we ready to re-commit to the better governing policies of the Democrats, if pragmatically applied?

As voters in the 6th Congressional District of Georgia begin voting in the June 20 Jon Ossoff/Karen Handel run-off, politicos and uber-engaged voters around the country are wondering if this election will signal a new dawn in our long partisan darkness. It could be that a new pragmatic leadership style is emerging: one that is easier on the eyes and ears of independents, suburban moderates, blue-collar workers, and millennials. The Pragmatic Progressive is a strong Democrat in economic and social/civic policy, but understands these policies benefit many beyond their base and are not afraid to go into the lion’s den, if need be, to let them know so.

A Pragmatic Progressive – and Ossoff sure seems like one - can explain to you why Democratic policies are not special-interest politics but are sound economic strategies for citizens at every economic level. A Pragmatic Progressive believes government is meant to be a partnership with you, your business, and your community. It is government’s role to create a framework within which a citizen can prosper.

A Pragmatic Progressive believes that there is no special or privileged group that is entitled to better or more advantageous government than another. Every citizen is entitled to government respect and access. Every person is an economic and community asset. A Pragmatic Progressive believes the worker is as important and as valuable as the investor, and our governmental policies should reflect that.

A Pragmatic Progressive knows that our common prosperity lies in the strength of the middle class. Expanding the middle class through economic principles of fair (not favored) taxation stimulates the economy, increases investment, creates growth and opportunity, lowers unemployment and improves workforce quality. The expenditure of government funds should not be justified as an entitlement, but rather as an investment that can be defended with an articulable return.

Such a progressive accepts science, technology and fact. She understands that global markets and policies are essential to innovation and the free market at home. He wants the United States to be an economic leader in the world and appreciates that global political and economic stability is in our best interest. That stability requires that the United States be a major, but measured, participant in world affairs, on both national security and economic matters. A Pragmatic Progressive knows that immigration is essential to our economic growth.

The red/blue dichotomy has become an oversimplified, lazy way to talk about what we actually believe, and that is one of the reasons we are having such difficulty in American political discourse today. A Pragmatic Progressive does not reject reasoned, well-targeted Republican policies out of hand. Yet, a Pragmatic Progressive recognizes that many policies urged by conservatives are not conservative policies at all, but rather are highly invasive government-expanding ideas based on using government as a weapon of individual power, such as the so-called Religious Freedom Bills.

A Pragmatic Progressive does not believe in the conservative adage, coined by William F. Buckley, that we should “stand athwart history and yell stop.” The human condition is to move forward, to embrace progress and to shape our future, not hide from it or deny it or fight it. We cannot simultaneously hate our government and love the United States of America that it comprises. We cannot simultaneously hate our government and proclaim to love the men and women who give their lives for it. A Pragmatic Progressive cannot be a member of a party that believes our government – the United States of America - is so potentially “tyrannical” that citizens must preemptively stockpile weapons against it.

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Government is important. Our government is us. Our form of government is the greatest civic experiment of mankind, and to this point it has been a successful experiment. We need policies that reflect that and leaders who understand it. We need more Pragmatic Progressive Democrats.

Jon Ossoff’s unlikely success thus far has signaled that the dawn is coming. The only question is: Will it arrive on June 20?