E-Binder|Economy   4 Minute Read

Third Way's New Blue Campaign

Published March 9, 2017

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Third Way


Third Way’s New Blue campaign is an ambitious effort to create a modern economic vision that can displace right-wing populism. That includes:

Getting out of the Beltway. A solution developed only by talking to people in Washington can never hit the mark in communities where Americans are grappling with a changing economy and uncertainty about their place in it. Our team will be spending time in communities that have been hit hard to listen and understand the challenges residents are facing every day.

  • District visits: We'll map swing districts, 12 that voted for Trump and a Democratic House member and 23 that voted for Clinton and a Republican in the House. We'll research the local politics, economy, and experiences that make those 35 districts similar—and what distinguishes them.
  • Adopt-a-county: There's so much to learn in bellwether counties about how the conventional wisdom failed. Our teams will conduct deep dives to understand the forces at play in these critical places, building sustained relationships and spending time on the ground with local leaders and community members.
  • Rural task force: Partnering with local civic organizations, we'll host a series of discussions about the economy of rural America with the residents living there.

Developing a future-oriented narrative and agenda. Trump is all about reliving the past. To defeat Trumpism, Americans want to hear a positive vision, backed in solid research, that responds to the 21st century economic realities they are facing and addresses both their aspirations and anxieties.

  • Economic strategy series: We'll host policy conversations inside DC and in communities across the country with individuals and groups across the political spectrum to unpack essential elements of an optimistic middle-class agenda.
  • Public opinion research: We’ll conduct rigorous qualitative and quantitative public opinion research to help round out the ethnographic research we collect in our travels and ensure that its results carry over to other areas of the country.
  • Policy development: We'll identify and develop bold, game-changing ideas to help propel Americans forward in an era of incredible transformation and change.

Building a strategic braintrust. An agenda and message that can defeat right-wing populism won't succeed if there isn't an army of people making the case in Washington, state capitals, and town squares. We'll engage current and upcoming leaders at all levels to participate in the research and policy development process and recruit them to champion the ideas that result.

  • Lifting up future leaders: Our team will work with and advise the next generation of leaders to help them develop and articulate a modern vision for the country.
  • Expanding partnerships across the country: We will build a network of allies and evangelists, both inside and outside DC, who will inform and shape our work and help ensure that it gets into wide circulation.
  • Convening thought leaders: We will gather some of the leading anti-populist thinkers and public intellectuals on the center-right to learn what we can about their plan for battling right-wing populism and identify where we might be able to make common cause.


Democrats are in a deep hole. Some might be tempted to look at how close the last election was and conclude things don't need to change. We think that's a recipe for more losses all the way down the ballot because, as The Washington Post reported, Democrats are becoming a coastal, regional party. We tried to deliver the bad news in a good way in our Medium article: Democrats hold fewer seats at the federal, state, 2016 presidential vote by countyand local level than at any time since Reconstruction. Meanwhile, Republicans are one state legislature away from having the votes to call a constitutional convention, and it is possible to walk from the Atlantic to the Pacific and not step foot in a county that voted for Democrats. The answer cannot be more of the same.

"Digging themselves out will require Democrats to build a big-tent coalition based on values and experiences, not just demographic groups, and rethinking the party’s pitch and policies to respond to the needs and concerns of Americans across the country, not just in cities and on coasts."

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Lanae Erickson Hatalsky and Jim Kessler make the case that Democrats cannot rely on demographic math alone to win elections. Our first report explains the “demography is destiny” theory failed to deliver the nationwide majorities some promised because:

  1. Demographic change is not evenly distributed.
  2. Voter behavior is not static.
  3. Most Democratic voters don’t identify as liberal.

If the party hopes to rebuild, understanding why this strategy failed is critical to charting a better way forward. As Lanae told The Atlantic's Clare Foran, “There are definitely persuadable voters out there and the question we should be asking right now is: ‘Who can be persuaded to embrace our vision of the future?’”

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