Hold on to ’16 as Long as You Can


Donald Trump dominated the middle of the U.S. electoral map in 2016 against an opponent who dismissed many of the region’s voters as “deplorables.” Democrats might therefore have been expected to vet potential presidential candidates for their ability to appeal to Middle America. But emerging contenders for the 2020 nomination are most likely to please the party’s coastal check-writers.

Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont is promising to make radical changes to Americans’ health care. And he’s persuaded at least four of his potential rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination to endorse his single-payer reconstruction of American medicine: Sens.

Cory Booker

(D., N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

So where are the marketable moderates to win over voters in swing states? Former Vice President

Joe Biden

talks up his upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania. But he hasn’t lived there since 1953. His family moved southeast to Claymont, Delaware the same year that

Dwight Eisenhower

was inaugurated. Moreover, in policy terms Mr. Biden is a standard Democrat who has called climate change ‘the most consequential issue of our time.”

Now along comes

Rep. Tim Ryan,

the Ohio lawmaker last seen attempting to depose

Nancy Pelosi

as the leader of House Democrats. Mr. Ryan really does live in the Midwest and his 2016 challenge to the House minority leader plus a longtime reputation for moderation suggest he could be a new kind of candidate for Democrats.

But rather than reaching out to the middle-class “deplorables” whom

Hillary Clinton

used to ridicule at high-dollar coastal fundraisers, Mr. Ryan appears busy making himself eligible to headline such events. Recently the leftist website The Intercept reported:

Ryan’s district is one of the few poor, majority-white districts that is represented by a Democrat. But he won’t be running on a stereotypical working-class persona; instead, he believes his path to the White House runs through the “yoga vote.”

Ryan has long been a champion of mindfulness, meditation, and similar pursuits, and has even created a “Quiet Time Caucus” in the House of Representatives. James Gimian, the publisher of Mindful magazine who knows Ryan, said he isn’t sure whether Ryan will run for president, but that the yoga vote has gone mainstream in recent years. “The so-called yoga voters are the kind of folks who realize that while they grew up with their mom saying, ‘Pay attention,’ nobody trained them in how to pay attention and use their mind to focus on what’s important,” he said. “That’s a growing population — it’s no longer just


yoga women.” He said that anybody who is negotiating the “emotional land mine of modern day living” could be someone Ryan’s message would resonate with.

This column will go out on a limb and suggest that Hillary Clinton ran quite strongly in 2016 among those who regularly practice yoga. It is rather the substantial non-yoga vote that has lately been a challenge for her party.

This is not necessarily due to issues of faith. In 2012 Yoga Journal tackled the question of whether yoga is a religion:

Most American yoga students would answer this question with a simple no. As practitioners, we aren’t required to adhere to a particular faith or obliged to observe religious rituals such as baptisms or bar mitzvahs. We aren’t asked to believe in God, to attend organized worship services, or to learn specific prayers.

And yet, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, an ancient text that is widely referred to in yoga classes today, clearly presents a moral code for yogis to follow and outlines the path toward a mystical state of enlightenment known as samadhi, or union with the Divine. The yoga tradition also recognizes the path of bhakti yoga, the branch of yoga whose adherents devote themselves to a personal form of God. Its practices include chanting to deities, setting up altars, and even praying.

People who devote themselves to various forms of God may be fine with yoga but more concerned about Mr. Ryan’s recent evolution from Midwestern moderate to Beltway liberal on social issues. In a 2015 op-ed for the Akron Beacon Journal, Mr. Ryan explained that he had become pro-choice after spending most of his political career as a pro-life legislator.

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Last fall, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported:

Now, the potential presidential candidate is aiming to impress the Democratic party faithful by dissing one of their favorite targets, the National Rifle Association, in the wake of the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Ryan, who once had an “A” rating from the gun owners’ group, last week announced that he’d donate the roughly $20,000 its political action committee gave him over the years to gun safety organizations.

Beyond his former positions on abortion and firearms, which used to distinguish him from other Democrats, the Ohio lawmaker has generally been in line with his party colleagues. The Almanac of American Politics reports that in 2016 he agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Conservation Voters 100% of the time when it comes to the key congressional votes tracked by these organizations.

Whoever the new Tim Ryan is, he should feel at home as he embarks on a fundraising tour through the homes of well-heeled political donors. According to a weekend Journal report on the latest trend in residential luxury:

The path to inner peace may lie in the right amenities, or so the rising popularity of wellness real estate would suggest. Upscale home buyers are demanding eco-sensitive homes built with natural products—and opting for interior design that incorporates nature to reduce stress and promote mental clarity. To lure the enlightened buyer, luxury developers are offering morning yoga, mindfulness coaches and meditation chambers with ergonomic cushions.

Sounds relaxing, but it’s unclear how persuading Mr. Ryan to abandon the beliefs he used to hold in common with Trump voters will move any of them into the Democrat column. Rather than speaking to the same left-leaning coalition, party leaders might want to do as the yogis do and focus on being centered.


Bottom Stories of the Day will return on Tuesday.


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(Lisa Rossi helps compile Best of the Web. Thanks to Jackie Harty.)


Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “Borrowed Time,” which will be published on August 7.

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