Why the Democrats’ “Better Deal” Is Political Suicide

For a few days last week, Amy McGrath was unavoidable on Twitter as her two-minute debut ad, the first of an underdog campaign for Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District seat, went viral. All of the cinematic boxes were checked: professional lighting, polished editing, a score that could make Aaron Sorkin cry. McGrath, a former Marine pilot, walks toward the camera wearing a bomber jacket, a fighter jet behind her, and explains how, as a teenager, she wrote her congressman asking why she couldn’t fight for her country. “When I was 13, my congressman told me I couldn’t fly in combat,” McGrath says. “He said Congress thought women ought to be protected and not allowed to serve in combat. I never got a letter back from my senator, Mitch McConnell.” McGrath went on to become the first woman to fly an F/A-18 in combat.

It’s a resonant message in the Trump era. Not every woman who goes to the polls can relate to dreaming of being a fighter pilot, but many can surely recognize when men are trying to dictate their fates. Lived experience counts for a lot, hence McGrath didn’t need to try all that hard to include gender in an expression of her political identity. The personal is the political, and vice versa. Both are wrapped, unapologetically, in the red, white, and blue. McGrath—whose video has racked up well over 1 million views in the week since it was posted—is the latest in a suddenly ubiquitous genre as the Democratic Party ramps up efforts to recruit veterans. It’s a shrewd play for a party that finds itself, perhaps unexpectedly, in the position of national security scold. And it’s one that allows the party to elide, if momentarily, a vexing debate on the left over whether race and gender politics are an obstacle, rather than the cornerstone, of the coalition-building they must do to retake Congress.

Party leadership seems to want a divorce from identity politics. Or a trial separation, at least. On July 24, they unveiled “A Better Deal,” a new package of economic reforms which they believe will empower working-class voters. Several members of Congress, including minority leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, staged a launch event in a predominantly white Northern Virginia district that Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock won by fewer than six points last November. It was red, but perhaps not so red that they felt it couldn’t become blue. In the latest quixotic move from the party that can’t seem to get out of its own…

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