The Democratic Party is grappling with its identity.

What ideological makeup will drive it through the next election cycle? Will it be the party of Keith Ellison or Howard Schultz?

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia or J.B. Pritzker?

Elizabeth Warren or Christopher Kennedy?

After losing Congress and the White House, Democrats are teetering on the edge of political oblivion and terrified by the ascendancy of Donald J. Trump.

This political crisis finds the party’s left wing itching to take charge.


When Democratic activists aren’t daydreaming about flipping electors or hopeless recounts, they’re bickering over which out-of-step liberal will lead the Democratic National Committee. The leading candidate of the moment is U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a lefty black Muslim from Minnesota who has been accused of being anti-Semitic.

Congressional Democrats just re-elected U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader. Pelosi, 76, is a wealthy San Francisco liberal who has held office for 29 years.

Other leading voices, like U.S. senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, hail from Vermont and Massachusetts, liberal bastions that are out of tune with the moderate electorate.

“Good ole Joe” Biden, 74, recently teased reporters that he just might run for president. For the third time.

Hello! There’s a new world out there.

In these Trumpian times, if the Democratic Party ever hopes to take back Washington, or even survive, it must broaden the base. History shows that political parties are strongest when there is tension between the right and the left. A wider ideological spectrum can reach a larger electorate.

Business leaders could step into the breach.

Trump walloped a dozen or more legacy politicians in the presidential sweepstakes. His chief opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was (on paper) the most credentialed individual to ever seek the presidency.

Yet voters chose a highly flawed, celebrity businessman who had never been elected to any office, had never stepped foot in any bureaucracy.

Hello! A key ingredient in the winning Trump portfolio was his business credentials.

Millions of voters, fed up with America’s stultified political system and ineffective political leadership, are yearning for a different kind of politician.

They see a stagnant and hostile economy. Politically moderate entrepreneurs and business titans could be the new Blue Dogs, pragmatic, centrist voices who can speak to their needs.

That’s an opening for moderate Democrats who eschew tax-and-spending, those who crave compromise and get stuff done.

They might argue, who is better to bring economic opportunity than people who have built great companies, hired people, met payrolls?

Business leaders may be the new Democrats at the right time. Howard Schultz just announced he was stepping off his CEO throne at Starbucks. The creator of a feel-good brand that gets you going in the morning, a socially conscious, wildly successful company.

Schultz is playing coy about his future, but is politically inclined.  Last August, the Atlantic magazine queried: “Is Starbucks’s Howard Schultz the Liberal Donald Trump?”

 Forbes Magazine pegs Schultz’s at $3.1 billion, enough to handily finance a senatorial or presidential bid.

J.B. Pritzker, a megabucks Democratic Party fundraiser and scion of the Hyatt Hotel fortune, is scouting a run for Illinois governor. Chris Kennedy, the moneyed real estate developer and son of Robert F. Kennedy, is also in that mix.

I suspect many more gold plated names are looking at Trump’s presidential conquest and wondering, why not me?

Why not the Democratic Party?


Follow Laura Washington on Twitter: @MediaDervish