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Retiring Democrat has drastic warning for his party: 'Basically facing extinction' in Tennessee

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Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who is retiring from Congress after his term ends next January, offered a scathing critique of the Democratic Party and a catastrophic warning for Democrats in the Volunteer State.

Cooper announced his retirement last month after serving in Congress for more than 30 years.

What did Cooper say?

Speaking with the Nashville Scene, Cooper warned that Democrats face "extinction" in Tennessee if the party does not quickly alter its political strategy.

"The Democratic Party in Tennessee is basically facing extinction," Cooper warned. "We’ve been on a long downhill slide for a long time."

"What Tennessee Democrats need is a strategy to win. We’re addicted to telling other people what to think. You can’t really win many elections if you’re that self-righteous," Cooper explained. "It’s important to be in communication with your constituents, not to be their boss. You’re their representative. We’ve got to get this formula right."

Such an attitude has alienated rural voters, Cooper explained, a problem for which Democrats have no solution apart from "blind hope."

We saw last election a 10-point swing against Trump because the more educated folks in rural counties do not find Trump appealing. What steps have we taken to capitalize on that? What outreach do we have to Republicans and independents? Most of the rhetoric you hear is, “Let’s double down, let’s force it down their throats.” That’s not the way to win votes. You have to have mutual respect and trust. First, that takes familiarity.

Tip O’Neill said that all politics is local. He didn’t say all politics is long-distance.

Cooper, who announced his retirement after congressional redistricting sliced his district and thus made his re-election improbable, said the biggest problem facing Democrats is the party's inability to properly strategize.

"As usual, Democrats are not alert to future dangers. The biggest danger we face in an off-year election after we won the White House is the 100-year trend toward the other party. Redistricting is small potatoes compared to that historical trend," Cooper said. "Our party needs to improve its management capabilities. We do not anticipate and organize and plan."

What are Democrats doing about it?

As Cooper indicated: Not much.

Intra-party fighting remains a significant problem for Democrats. For example, at least one progressive Democrat is doubling down on toxic rhetoric that moderate Democrats believe has damaging political consequences. Meanwhile, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and far-left org Justice Democrats will continue targeting moderate Democrats in primary elections.

Compounding problems, Democrats will be forced to answer numerous issues ahead of the election — growing economic woes and record inflation, legislative failures, the botched Afghanistan withdrawal, the border crisis, COVID restrictions, among other issues — because they are the majority party that controls the White House and Congress.

Cooper does not have a magic 8-ball, but for the sake of his party, Democrats should heed his message, lest they face the wrath of the swinging political pendulum.

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