The Democrat party may be out of touch, but it is not suicidal, and has spent the year since Trump's upset victory trying to improve their electoral prospects.
They've figured out that the Clintons are dead weight and chucked them overboard, while retaining the Obama camp who are less hated but still about as neoliberal.
They've left the Russia witch hunt mostly to their lackeys in the media, since the voters they need to win over don't believe the hysteria (but the hysteria does draw in the small niche of cable news addicts).
And most importantly, they've made their opposition based mainly on class and economic issues, rather than scream "racist sexist homophobe" all day long. They tried that early on with the pussy hat march, the "not wanting to get blown up by radical Muslims makes you an Islamophobe" campaign during the travel ban -- but it didn't work. They've learned and switched to economic issues.
Those are the issues that Trump defeated them on during the campaign, but which have been hijacked by the typical Republican bullshit once the GOP took over the executive branch, combined with their control of Congress.
Trump ran on delivering the best of both worlds for independent voters -- populist on economics, nationalist on culture, immigration, and foreign policy. The Pentagon junta has purged the nationalists out of the government, beginning with Flynn and ending with Bannon, so there goes that plank of the Trumpist platform for the time being. But of course the Democrats are not about to challenge the Trump administration on not being sufficiently nationalist.
That leaves the populist themes that have been contradicted by the standard GOP playbook of inflating bubbles for the sectors that control their party (military, agriculture, energy), cutting taxes on the rich and corporations, and slashing spending on the social safety net.
Trump ran on preserving the social safety net against the usual Republican attempts to destroy it, pairing tax cuts with tax hikes in the form of big fat tariffs that would penalize companies that have replaced American workers with foreign workers, and drawing down military spending by shrinking our global footprint where it is no longer useful (Germany, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan) and negotiating down the prices from the military-industrial complex. *
That is what won over enough Obama voters in enough states to win the Electoral College. The nationalist, America-first themes won over Republican primary voters tired of globalism, but the general election was mostly about populism.
When these voters see what is going on during the Trump administration, they're going to be less enthusiastic the next time around and may completely ditch the GOP in 2020. Michigan was already a razor-thin win, and Minnesota (Trump + third-party spoiler), Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania were not much wider. Forget flipping Maine. Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina look safer, though Florida will still be a toss-up (not that populism will help there -- it is a destination for individualist yuppie transplants).
If Democrats claw back Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, they will win with 278 votes in 2020.
Against that background, they are sending Bernie Sanders out to hold rallies in Rust Belt states to try to win back the Trump voters who voted on class issues, by pointing out how opposite the results have been from what he campaigned on.
And he's not doing a bad job -- too early to tell how many he'll win back, but it's not just mindless boo-ing Trump, slandering Trump voters as bigots like George W. Bush did, or foaming at the mouth about Russia like a liberal media moron.
Here are videos of the same speech in Dayton, OH (jump to 49:00) and Reading, PA (53:00). Trump won both counties. Dayton's county had not voted red since 1988, although Reading's county had voted Obama '08 and Romney '12.
Bernie starts off saying he sympathizes with Trump voters, says their pain is real, they're not racists, and what Trump promised during the campaign were good things -- healthcare for all, no cutting the social safety net, Drain the Swamp, drug companies are ripping us off, trade deals should bring back manufacturing jobs, etc.
He tells the few boo-ers in the audience not to boo Trump voters or the issues that Trump ran on. (His audience at rallies are mostly partisan retards who can only voice approval for universal healthcare if Bernie rather than Trump is promoting it.)
Then he lists the various ways in which the agenda being pursued so far contradicts what Trump ran on, and calls on Trump to promise to veto any bill that betrays his promises from the campaign regarding the social safety net, drug prices, etc.
He's insightful and pragmatic enough to put most of the blame on Congressional Republicans, who everybody hates and who deserve the blame for where things have gone so far. But he doesn't quite go as far as the truth, to portray Trump as being isolated and held hostage by "his own" party, which would make Trump more sympathetic, and perhaps antagonize Trump voters into a bitter GOP primary campaign rather than just switching over to Bernie-style Democrats.
It would be the most devastating blow he could deliver to the opposition party -- "I understand where you were coming from, but you voted for Trump and wound up with the GOP instead." As it is, he portrays Trump as having lied and deceived voters during the campaign. Not believable, given the immense punishment he took and the sacrifices he made without any guarantee of victory.
A more crippling frame would be that Trump intended to do everything he said during the campaign, but that one man -- and an outsider at that -- was not enough to overcome the machinery of the GOP while in office. Maybe that doesn't win over his voters to Democrats, maybe it just drives the Republicans back into civil war. Either way, that's the way he should be framing it.
In these social media videos that edit together the sound bites from the rallies, the Bernie team even uses Trump's own TV appearances from the campaign to emphasize what he ran on. I think that has the effect of neutering the wrong claims of Trump being a deceiver -- we can tell from his voice and face that he sincerely wants to do what he's saying.
However we have to hold the GOP's feet to the fire, we have to do it. And Trump's feet, to the extent that he has chosen to hitch his wagon to the falling star of Republicanism. Backing away from "let's let Assad stay in power" we can understand -- the Pentagon elites and CIA could have threatened to assassinate his family and have the IRS seize his family's wealth.
But they're not literally holding him hostage over tax cuts for the rich and destroying Medicare. He has more wiggle room there, and should distance himself as far as possible from austerity measures.
It's time for some kind of campaign about "Trump voters against GOP economics". It would be best to partner with the Bernie people, since they are organized and we are not, and since it would emphasize the bipartisan support for the social safety net, protectionist trade deals, and universal healthcare among citizens (if not among the elites).
We should set aside the fact that they are not America-firsters -- because neither is the GOP, and Trump's "own party" has taken extreme measures to railroad the Trumpian nationalists out of the government. If both parties are globalist for the time being, we might as well strategically ally with the one that is more open to populism than corporate elitism, while trying to build a better America-first party to repeal-and-replace the Republican party.
* Remember when, during the transition and pre-Pentagon coup, Trump negotiated down $600 million from the F-35 contract going to Lockheed Martin? He must have gotten a talking to by the military elite, and has not tried to get more bang for the buck on military equipment ever since. Indeed, Congress delivered an even larger defense budget than what Trump had asked for.