Outgoing Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon warned fellow Democrats against veering to the left after being walloped in this year’s elections, suggesting the party needs to broaden its base by welcoming those with more centrist values.
“We should respect people for their positions and not exclude them because we disagree with them on certain issues,” Nixon said in an interview. “Identity politics, or whatever you want to call it, sometimes can lead to exclusion.”
Democrats faced widespread losses in November when Republican President-elect Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Republicans also won across the board in Missouri and will take control of the governor’s mansion when Nixon leaves office Jan. 9 because of term limits.
Nixon said he wants to make sure Democrats don’t “learn the wrong lesson” from the election.
“Sometimes in partisan politics people say, ‘You don’t hold this position or that position or that position, you can’t be in the club,'” he said. “I don’t think that’s the right lesson to learn.”
He suggested he and other current and former Democratic leaders might join forces to advocate for ways to broaden the party. Nixon said that means connecting with “working folks” and not excluding those who enjoy fishing and hunting.
Nixon cited his experience signing off on some tax cuts and enacting spending cuts to keep the budget in balance. He said some believed those actions would cost a “horrific political price” but said he didn’t face such blowback from Missourians, although some state lawmakers criticized him.
Nixon also said it’s important to emphasize to taxpayers Democrats support more efficiency in government and good use of tax money.
Nixon is to be succeeded by Republican Gov.-elect Eric Greitens. Nixon said he will be around to help with the transition process but then will go on vacation before starting work at a private St. Louis law firm later in January.