Tom Basile: Democrats are facing a time of choosing -- and it's not about Trump 

The first Democratic presidential debates of the 2020 campaign provided a lot of material to absorb for the media and Beltway-chattering class. However, for most Americans who are busy going to work, paying their bills and carting kids around, the last thing they’re concerned with this far out from an election is a political contest with dozens of people straining for relevance.

A new poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that just 35 percent of Democrats were paying either “a good deal” or “a lot” of attention to the presidential campaign. According to a May Gallup survey, 30 percent of Americans identify as Republican, 38 as Independent and 31 as Democrat. So that’s 35 percent of 31 percent actually paying attention.

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But the truth is more Democrats should start tuning in now, and it has nothing to do with President Trump.

It might come as a shock but not everything in American politics is a debate about whether you support President Trump. The question for Democrats to answer is not about any one candidate or even any of the social justice warrior issues that have dominated the discussion thus far.

It’s a simple, personal and profound question: If you registered Democrat in the pre-Obama era, do you still belong in the Democratic Party?

Notice, this isn’t about proselytizing Republicanism or suggesting that potentially disaffected Democrats are secretly enthusiastic Trump voterst. Again, this isn’t about Trump.

The early rhetoric in the Democratic primary isn’t your usual nod to the base that happens in every presidential election in either party. It’s deeper, more radical and for many Democrats, possibly troubling. 

Determining whether the Democratic Party has abandoned huge segments of those in the Gallup poll who self-identify as Democrats requires individual registered Democrats to perform an ideological assessment outside the context of the president.

This Democratic self-assessment is about whether the voters believe they still identify with a party increasingly distancing itself from that of Kennedy and Clinton in favor of Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Sanders and Warren.

White suburban and black urban Democrats -- men and women alike -- should assess whether they have been deserted in favor of a transparent effort to restock the party with new, more reliable cohorts of voters like first-generation Latinos.

Decades of pandering to black voters have given way to a full-throated embrace of immigrant Latinos. It’s no coincidence that Democrats now are advocating for decriminalizing illegal immigration, non-citizen voting, expedited paths to citizenship and automatic voter registration.

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Black Democrats should also be doing a self-assessment over whether 50 years of empty promises from the party have led to real empowerment and the closing of income and education gaps. Remember, 600,000 more black families lived below the poverty line by the time Obama left office. Great Society programs have ballooned in size, but results have a black community still lagging behind many key indicators.

White, blue-collar Democrats should be asking themselves whether a party more concerned about transgender issues, banning plastic straws and promoting taxpayer-funded health care for illegals is really concerned with job creation and wage growth.

The majority of women in this country believe in reasonable limits on abortion, yet Democrats are hellbent on expanding widely unpopular late-term abortion practices. If you’re a Democratic woman, you should assess whether the party is genuinely interested in women’s rights or simply advancing a political agenda centered on more government control of health care.

If you’re a Democrat and you don’t wake up in the morning seeing discrimination, racism, and victimization around every corner that requires strict government intervention, your view of America is clearly different than today’s Democratic Party. California just banned “hair discrimination.”

If you just want to watch television, buy a razor, take in an NFL game or do any number of other mundane activities of American life without being bombarded by identity politics, political correctness, or shaming, then perhaps the Democratic Party isn’t for you any longer.

If you have a genuine belief in God and feel expressions of that belief or expressions of patriotism are neither offensive, ignorant or jingoistic, today’s Democratic Party disagrees with you. If you came of age in a time when people worked harder at working than complaining, a self-assessment of where you fit in today’s Democratic Party might leave you feeling abandoned.

Maybe you can’t put it into words. Maybe you just don’t buy it anymore. Maybe you’re just genuinely appalled at the ideas, the pandering, and the tactics. Maybe you believe that America isn’t perfect but remains an exceptional place and a force for good.

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Becoming an Independent would accomplish two things. First, it would send a message to party leadership that radical, leftist policies are, at their core, anti-American and should be rejected. Second, it can spur the GOP to work harder to counter the left and advance a pro-freedom, pro-economic growth agenda.

Either way, even this early in the campaign, for common-sense Democrats, maybe now is your time to choose to leave.

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