Third Way Encourages Centrist Allies to Embrace Opportunity 2020

June 18, 2019 by Dan McCue
Representative Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., at the Third Way Opportunity 2020 meeting in Charleston, S.C. (via Third Way Twitter)

WASHINGTON – Third Way, the centrist Democratic think-tank based in Washington, D.C., took its message to Charleston, South Carolina Monday and Tuesday, rallying its supporters and bolstering its efforts to keep the party from veering too far left ahead of the 2020 election.

Though the organizers of the Opportunity 2020 event did not invite presidential candidates to participate, presidential politics is very much in the air this week in South Carolina, where Democrats will hold their annual state convention next Saturday.

Instead the crowd of several hundred gathered in Charleston included elected officials, consultants, strategists and pollsters, all intent on talking not about pipedreams, but kitchen table issues such as good jobs that are too scarce, health care costs that are too high, and a future that is uncertain for too many Americans.

“It’s about building an economy and a community,” said former Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota Tuesday afternoon.

“Republicans are taking rural communities for granted. Among the questions they should be asking is ‘How do we keep churches open and a local basketball team thriving that drive pride in their towns?’

“Republicans never ask those kinds of questions,” she said.

Later Heitkamp told the large crowd gathered to hear her that what small business owners in rural North Dakota want is no different from what the cab driver in New York wants.

“They want opportunity for themselves and their kids, safe communities, and health care they can count on,” she said.

Taking aim at the progressive wing of the party that is courting young voters, by, among other things, promising them free college, Heitkamp told her fellow centrist Democrats “We need an economic message … and it can’t be about free stuff.”

Representative Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., told attendees that “the loudest voices are not necessarily representative of the people who are working two or three jobs and trying to raise their families.

“We should be making moral and economic arguments so people hear their values and priorities,” she said.

‏Later, appearing onstage with Representative Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., the two agreed that at the end of the day candidates need to represent their constituents – and understand and represent the needs of their districts.”

In an interview with the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper, Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, said the choice of Charleston for the group’s 2019 session was no coincidence.

“We wanted to be in one of the first four states, but our view is that South Carolina in some ways is vitally important in its own right because it’s the first primary that involves a diverse electorate,” Bennett said.

And diversity ruled during the two-day event, where participants spoke on a wide range of issues ranging from basic civil rights to improving the quality of public education.

Offstage and in the hallways, many people also talked about Third Way’s recently launched Twitter initiative to divert voters’ attention from the leftist activists who dominate the social media platform.

“Checking Twitter might be a quick way to tune into the political conversation, but it’s probably warping your sense of the electorate,” the group said in one recent tweet.

“Playing to the far left on Twitter is a surefire way to leave moderate & independent voters at home on election day,” it said in another.

Third Way is targeting roughly 10,000 influencers on the platform by promoting paid content that aims to change the progressive chatter to centrist dialogue ahead of 2020.

“We don’t want to cede the digital conversation to the far left,” Matt Bennett said.

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