HARRISBURG (TNS) — While many of my fellow Democrats are dancing a victory jig, they have not yet realized how we really have lost Pennsylvania. President-Elect Biden, whom polls said would cruise to victory by five points, instead won by a razor-thin 1%.

We lost two of the three row offices and, instead of gaining in the state legislature, will cede ground. In the next two-four years, we must come to terms with the following:

• The party tent might be too big unless its factions find common ground.

Dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party has grown from each of its blocs. Bernie Sanders joins the party only to run for president, but otherwise remains independent. Many on the far left share a similar sentiment, criticizing Democrats’ inability to build a progressive agenda. And yet there are those in the center who feel their party is being taken from them, as The Squad, led by camera-ready Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, is too liberal — both socially and fiscally — for their taste.

• The focus cannot just be Philly and Pittsburgh.

Though statewide races will always depend upon these population centers, winning seats in 90% Democratic districts is not conducive to growth. This city-first focus has led to staggering if not untenable losses in the former Democratic bastions of northeast and southwest Pennsylvania. Though seeds were sown to grow the party, namely the Lehigh Valley, Philly suburbs, and even the Midstate, it has come slowly.

• There must be better messaging.

Republicans have focused on a “God, guns, and glory” central message. Democratic tenets, by contrast, are trickier. Black Lives Matter has proven effective because it is simple, easy and positive to rally and support.

{p class=”krtText”}But Defund the Police? It is negative and it takes a doctoral dissertation to explain. And, to quote Ronald Reagan: “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

• Improve data collection.

Republicans are running circles around Democrats using micro-targeting to persuade voters. This was key to President Trump’s 2016 victory. While Democrats have been stabbing in the dark with poor information on cell phones, emails and even mailing addresses, Republicans have used a laser scalpel to personalize messages to their voters.

• Democrats are losing working-class voters.

Many Democrats wonder “how could they vote against their self-interest?” But as the self-proclaimed defenders of the working class, we need to listen more to the kitchen-table concerns of working-class folks. Instead, these voters increasingly look to the Republicans for that.

• Losing Hispanic voters.

Even as President Donald Trump threatened to “build a wall” to Hispanics chasing the American Dream and disparaging people (even judges) for their ancestry, Democrats lost the most ground in 2020 to this fastest-growing group of voters. It must be rectified.

• Taking Black voters for granted.

“If you don’t vote for me,” Joe Biden told voters, “you ain’t Black.” For some dispirited Black voters who have routinely voted Democratic, this was a bridge too far and more cast their votes for Trump.

• Voter registration.

Since 2016, Republicans in Pennsylvania netted 100,000 more voters than Democrats. While we still hold a 700,000 advantage, many are independent ticket splitters, Democrats in Name Only (DINOs), or simply stay home. We have a growth problem, and young voters will not immediately plug it.

• Gerrymandering will cost us another decade.

When the legislative districts are redrawn next year by a Republican majority, expect the maps to look more like the ones that made news headlines as “Most Gerrymandered State in the U.S.” than the competitive ones the State Supreme Court instituted in 2018.

• To win, Democrats need to fall in love with their candidate; Republicans need to fall in line.

Case study of the previous two Presidents: Try to find a Democrat who does not paint the most positive portrait of President Obama. They love him. While President Trump has a devoted base (his rallies, even in the throes of a pandemic, exemplify such), many Republicans revile but pinched their nose to vote for him. Biden won thanks to enough dissent from Republicans to split their ticket, but that is not something we can bank on in 2022 or beyond.

• Many Democrats treat elections like a spectator sport.

In 2016 and 2018, I was worthless to our cause. Sure, I read the news, had a yard sign, talked a good game on social media and voted. There are many Democrats, my 2018 self included, who think this is political activism. It is not. Etan Hersh’s book, “Politics Is for Power,” notes political hobbyism is a Democratic flaw, especially in white men. Instead, we should pitch in our time, talents and treasure to encourage and volunteer for great candidates who run for office.

I am thrilled Pennsylvania’s Democrats were critical in electing Joe Biden as 46th president of the United States. But the celebration is going to be short-lived unless there is a long-term plan to start winning in Pennsylvania once again. It is time to get to work together.

(Jake Miller is a teacher in Cumberland Valley School District and a former candidate for Cumberland County treasurer.)

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