By Salena ZitoSaturday, Feb. 7, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
The unofficial death of the moderate American Democrat went largely unnoticed last week.
Tim Ryan — a once-strident champion of the Rust Belt city of Youngstown, filled with moderate Catholic Democrats whose issues are still firmly pocketbook-based — penned an op-ed saying he now supports abortion.
The Ohio congressman, who once sat on the board of the Democrats for Life in America advocacy group, made that surprising reversal as he contemplates a run for U.S. Senate.
You see, plenty of Jacksonian Democrats remain in his district — and all across the country, for that matter — but no tolerance for them exists in the Washington-based national Democratic Party.
No money exists for them from elite progressive funders, either.
Ryan's decision opens up the floodgates for campaign cash from national Democrats' purses, now that he shed that old-fashioned tie to his moral compass.
And groups such as Emily's List, Planned Parenthood and NARAL, which are funding spigots for Democrats, can deploy that cash and those all-important volunteers to help Ryan win whatever office he seeks.
It was a spigot that was never opened to him before his departure from the blue-collar ideals he brought to office in 2004.
“It always strikes me as funny that the folks on TV call Republicans ‘extreme,' and pretty much ignore that Democrats have left no room for people like me in my own party,” said Yvonne, a Youngstown native who did not want to give her last name.
To Yvonne, who has lived all of her 30-plus years in that eastern Ohio city, being a Democrat is like listing your religion, the part of town where you grew up, and the school you attended.
“It's a part of my identity,” she said, adding after a pause: “Or was.”
When Ryan made his announcement last week, the national press offered no questions or headline-grabbing adjectives — just praise.
That was an interesting departure from the media reaction when then-candidate Cory Gardner, a Colorado congressman running for U.S. Senate last year, changed from support to non-support of “personhood.”
“Bombshell,” “extremist” and “cheap election-year stunt” were the words in some of the milder headlines.
Gardner moved to the center. Ryan moved to the left wing.
Ryan was praised. Gardner was hammered.
Now think about that for a moment: One politician moved to his party's wing, not its center, and it was as if a tree fell in a forest — with no one listening. Another politician moved to his party's center, and hair collectively caught fire.
Just five years ago, 110 pro-life Democrats were in the House, around a dozen in the U.S. Senate. Today, fewer than five are in the House, and two in the Senate.
Just five years ago, coincidentally, Democrats held majorities in both chambers.
They lost those majorities because they lost touch with their districts.
Yes, gerrymandering played a part. Yet that is far from the whole story, a story no one talks about — or, if they do, they don't address the problem. The fact is, Democrats are losing or excluding evangelicals, blue-collar types, Jacksonians and moderates, not only from feeling welcome in the party but from filling the Democrat bench to run for or to hold local offices.
That is happening not just in Ohio but all across the country.
So while the story is told, over and over, about how the extreme right wing of the Republican Party is pushing people out, you never once hear the word “extreme” associated with the left or progressive wings of the Democratic Party.
Is it because those wings' values are shared by many in the press who report on politics, so they view any move to the left as normal and sensible? Probably.
Is that good for Democrats? Probably not, because it forces them deeper into their party's coastal, urban and academic enclaves, and further out of touch with Middle America.
Eventually, if not already, that will make them the party of the elite.
Washington can't see this. Big-money Democrats can't see this.
But Yvonne, the Youngstown Democrat, can see it — and so can a lot of other Yvonnes and their families, neighbors and co-workers, all across the country.
Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (firstname.lastname@example.org).