Phil Bredesen, the former Nashville mayor and two-term Tennessee governor, says that Democrats are too elitist. The Democratic candidate running for Senate in Tennessee says that his own party is partially to blame for the state’s shift to the right, according to Business Insider. In a break from the usual party unity, Bredesen says that Democrats must reject their anti-Trump stance and embrace rural voters.
The 74-year-old is running for Senate in an area that went firmly for Trump by 26 points, so it is no surprise that he has taken a more centrist stand than some other Democrats in more liberal states. Even still, Bredesen’s comments are more critical of his own party than is typical.
“I think we’ve gotten too elitist about things, I think we’ve gotten too narrow about the definition of what it is to be a Democrat,” he said at a campaign event in Nashville. “I’d like to see us getting back to being a muscular party, whose common theme is about creating opportunity for working- and middle-class Americans.”
The former healthcare executive says that Democrats have lost rural and suburban voters because they have failed to focus on an economic message. He believes that the party needs to prioritize more on creating economic opportunities for middle-class voters.
Bredesen also believes that Democrats have focused too much on identity politics. His pitch to voters has been as a centrist who will work with both sides of the aisle to get things done. He believes his party needs to do the same if they want to win back conservative states.
“I’m from Nashville now, but I’m originally from a rural upstate New York area, and I know these non-urban folks all over the country, and certainly in this state — it’s a different culture, it’s a different set of values,” he told Business Insider. “They’re not better or worse, they’re just different. And I think Democrats, we claim to have respect for multiculturalism — well, some of those cultures are American.”
Bredesen has been in the news recently after Taylor Swift announced that she voted for the candidate and urged her fans to do the same. The singer has been famously quiet on her political stance until recently when she broke her silence to support progressive politics in her home state.
Swift posted a picture with her mom in Instagram standing next to a Phil Bredesen campaign sign on Wednesday. She emplored her followers not to “sit this one out” and to vote.