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Mon Jul 9, 2018, 09:35 PM

The Progressive Populist Who Wants to Help Democrats Win Back the Rust Belt

In early May, Richard Cordray was wrapping up a two-day campaign sprint during which he spoke to crowds of plumbers, pipefitters, ironworkers, teachers, firefighters, furniture workers, and now, as dusk settled over a low-slung Cleveland union hall, a hundred or so food and commercial workers. Cordray, who stepped down as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last December, was making a last-minute pitch to Ohio Democrats to choose him as their nominee for governor. Ostensibly, he was campaigning to defeat liberal gadfly Dennis Kucinich in the next day’s party primary (which he did, handily). But in a larger sense, Cordray was—is—trying to redeem a Democratic Party blindsided by Donald Trump’s 2016 victory and searching for a path forward.

Trump’s unexpected strength in Midwest swing states such as Ohio, where he trounced Hillary Clinton by eight points, exposed a deep erosion of Democratic support in swaths of the country you have to carry if you want to win the White House. Ohio has voted for the winner in 14 straight presidential elections. That Clinton’s brand of Wall Street-friendly, establishment Democratic politics wasn’t even competitive in this presidential bellwether underscored the scope of the party’s problem.

“Ohio’s not a right-wing state,” Ted Strickland, the former Democratic governor, insists. “Trump came along and captured the zeitgeist of the moment, but I don’t think that’s a permanent thing.”

What’s indisputable is that Ohio revealed a host of shortcomings Democrats must address. While Obama twice won the state with strong minority support, black voter turnout fell sharply in 2016. So did Democratic support in struggling manufacturing hubs such as the Mahoning Valley in Northeast Ohio, where many union members defected to Trump. Meanwhile, suburban voters didn’t turn out in nearly the numbers Democrats needed.

Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-07-09/richard-cordray-wants-to-help-democrats-win-back-the-rust-belt

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