Photo: AP

While a bacchanal for the most boring among us was getting under way in Central Park, an even less comprehensible gathering was taking place in Battleground, U.S.A (aka Columbus, OH) in the form of “Opportunity 2020,” a convention hosted by Third Way, the think tank that positions itself as a “center-left” alternative to the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.

And based on NBC News’ reporting from the event, it sounds like pure, uncut hellfire.

Our scene begins here (emphasis added throughout):

While the energy and momentum is with progressives these days — the victory of rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, buzz about Democratic Socialism and the spread of the “Abolish ICE!” movement are a few recent examples — moderates are warning that ignoring them will lead the party to disaster in the midterm elections and the 2020 presidential contest.

Ah, yes, because the last time the party tried to rally Americans around a moderate candidate, it turned out so well! Let’s definitely ignore all that enthusiasm fueling lefty candidates—that couldn’t possibly mean a sea change is underway—and try to keep the party as establishment as possible.

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The meat of Third Way’s supposed appeal—and avowed centrists at large—comes later:

The gathering here was just that — an effort to offer an attractive alternative to the rising Sanders-style populist left in the upcoming presidential race. Where progressives see a rare opportunity to capitalize on an energized Democratic base, moderates see a better chance to win over Republicans turned off by Trump.

The fact that a billionaire real estate developer, Winston Fisher, co-cohosted the event and addressed attendees twice underscored that this group is not interested in the class warfare vilifying the “millionaires and billionaires” found in Sanders’ stump speech.

“You’re not going to make me hate somebody just because they’re rich. I want to be rich!” Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, a potential presidential candidate, said Friday to laughs.

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Absolute and utter garbage.

Third Way and its ilk can’t really explain why an “alternative” to Sanders’ progressive wing—one that’s popular, growing, and genuinely “populist”—should be a priority. But it’s clear that the money is on corporate Democrats’ side, even if voters’ zeal is not, given them plenty to warn us about in somber tones. “You might not even get rich if you embrace socialism!” they cry, as if that wasn’t a near-statistical certainty in this economy anyway.

But we are far from done! After a House Democrat who represents Illinois, Cheri Bustos, invoked Richard Nixon’s “silent majority”—which was coined by Nixon while trying to discount the mass protest movement against the increasingly bloody and obviously pointless war in Vietnam—came this truly baffling sent of sentiments:

And they worry the angry left will cost Democrats a rare chance to win over those kind of voters, including Republicans who no longer want to be part of Trump’s GOP.

“Republicans have chosen the far right, which means that they have ceded a good portion of the middle of the road,” said former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is considering a presidential run. “The Democrats, in my opinion, would make a big mistake if they decide to run a base election and just say, ‘Our base is bigger than your base.’”

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Mitch Landrieu, what the hell are you talking about?? “Our base” being “bigger than your base” is how elections are won: You get more votes than the other guy! It also makes my eyes start to bleed when you consider that Democrats are hand-wringing about losing “middle of the road” voters. I can’t help but think back, for the millionth time, to Chuck Schumer’s infamous boast that “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” (This absolutely did not happen, as Hillary Clinton lost not only Pennsylvania, but also Ohio and Wisconsin.)

And still, moderate Democrats continue to fetishize the idea that the party can achieve lasting electoral success if only they can just peel away enough moderate Republicans, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Here’s an idea: Instead of simply doing even more of what they’ve always done, Democrats should take a relatively new tact—endorsing and supporting candidates who are genuinely left wing. These candidates are running and winning across the country, largely without the party’s help, already. It’s their turn to recognize which was the wind is blowing. Moderates are not a political force the way the left is right now—and Democrats underestimate them at their own peril.