Bill Clinton's former pollster thinks it's a mistake for Democratic presidential candidates to essentially run for President Barack Obama's "third term."
"That's not what the country wants. It's not what the base of the Democratic Party wants," said longtime Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, whose past clients include Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. "The Democratic Party is waiting for a president who will articulate the scale of the problems we face and challenge them to address it."
Greenberg thinks it's time to go bigger.
His comments came in an interview with The Huffington Post previewing his new book, America Ascendant, which chronicles what he describes as the "revolutions that are changing America, changing politics, changing culture, changing economics."
Listen to the full interview here:
Greenberg argues in the book that these revolutionary changes, including a population that is growing younger and more racially and culturally diverse, will lead to a period in which America will be "exceptional again." But he believes that renewal will require a period of sustained political reform, comparable to the Progressive Era at the turn of the 20th century, and the defeat of the "counter-revolution" being waged by the modern Republican Party.
The book, based in part on years of Greenberg's polling and focus groups, also looks at the profound "downside" to this time of change: stagnating wages, an endemic cost-of-living crisis, a perceived end to "middle class dreams." These "deep contradictions," as Greenberg describes them, have produced pessimism about the future and great skepticism about leaders in Washington, including President Barack Obama.
"The problem the president has had is that he's not tried to educate the country on how deep the downside is," Greenberg told HuffPost. "He was trying to tell the country that we're on an upward path without being honest, leveling with them about how big a price we have [to pay] in the short term and how much government has to do in order to get us onto a different path."
While Greenberg counsels Democrats to advocate "very bold policy changes," he also believes that a Republican "implosion" is now underway in the GOP presidential primary.
The Republican Party, as Greenberg describes it, is "a rural, white, married, evangelical, religious party in a country that's becoming less married, more secular, more urban." The "furious counter-revolution" the party has waged for a decade to keep the "new American majority" from governing, he said, has "alienated the Republican Party from the country."
He sees the evangelical and tea party blocs as "driving the base of support" for presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson, and believes they could ultimately boost support for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Greenberg is also ready to declare former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush "gone" as a presidential aspirant. "There's no place for Bush in the Republican Party," he said. Bush has positioned himself as a "more electable" candidate. But Greenberg pointed out that he "presents himself as the most conservative on choice issues, which makes him unacceptable to [GOP moderates], the one group of voters that might have voted for a moderate establishment candidate."
The Democratic pollster suggests that another presidential defeat for the GOP may lead to a new kind of Republican candidate, comparable to the changes set off by the 1984 defeat of "mainstream" Democrat Walter Mondale that led to the 1992 election of Bill Clinton, a "new kind of Democrat."
A "shattering loss" for the Republicans next year could lead to the party's "embrace of immigration and the country's diversity," "acceptance of the sexual revolution" and calls to "invest in infrastructure, education and the military." For now, however, Greenberg sees the GOP's counter-revolution on a collision course with the demographic trends reshaping the American electorate.
From 1990 to 1991, Mark Blumenthal was an employee of Greenberg's company, then known as Greenberg-Lake: The Analysis Group.