Democrats Launch New Slogan That Mirrors Communist China's

John Hickenlooper
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper lays out his plans for the next state legislative session at a news conference in his office at his state Capitol, in Denver, on December 19, 2013. A group of Democrats have united with an approach that mirrors Bill Clinton’s. Rick Wilking/Reuters

Thirty Democrats disillusioned with their party's struggles in Middle America have unveiled a new group aimed at expanding its base beyond just the two coasts. The initiative, which comprises current and former mayors, governors, cabinet members and lawmakers, comes complete with a catchy new title, "New Democracy."

Related: When centrists ruled and Democrats won: Former Texas governor dies

If that name sounds familiar, it's because it was the same as that given by Mao Zedong to his theory of democracy in Communist China.

"In a word, new-democratic culture is the proletarian-led, anti-imperialist and anti-feudal culture of the broad masses," Mao wrote on New Democracy in 1940, nine years before coming to power in China.

Comparisons with Communist China are unlikely to help the group of Democrats achieve their aim of reversing a series of losses the party has suffered at both the federal and state level. In addition to having a Republican in the White House, the GOP controls both the House and the Senate. There are 34 GOP governors, and in 26 of those states, the Republicans also control both houses of the legislature. Democrats have dominance in just six states—Connecticut, Rhode Island, California, Oregon and Hawaii. In the past decade, Democrats have lost more than 1,000 seats in state legislatures.

New Democracy, which includes members such as Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, aims to change that.

"New Democracy is a 'home base' and support network for pragmatic Democrats determined to make our party competitive in every part of America," the director of the group, Will Marshall, said in a statement. "These leaders—governors, mayors, state officials and members of Congress—know how to reach beyond core partisans and build governing majorities from the ground up."

While the name may mirror that in Mao's political agenda, the concept itself borrows from the New Democrats ideology embraced by former President Bill Clinton. Indeed, it was Marshall who was one of the founders of that movement that sought a "third way"—one that struck a more economically conservative tone that aimed to appeal to the center ground both politically and geographically.

"Democrats don't need to choose between center and left—we need to expand in all directions. Building a broad coalition is the party's best chance of rectifying today's dangerous imbalance of political power and stopping the harmful Trump-Republican agenda," Marshall added.

Democrats remain locked in an ideological battle over how to go about winning back power. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who ran against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, has similarly urged the party to expend greater energy on winning over red states, albeit with a liberal rather than centrist message.

Meanwhile, Sanders and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez were criticized for appearing at a rally for Nebraska mayoral candidate Heath Mello, who years earlier had voted for legislation supported by anti-abortion rights activists. Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan last week said the party would not impose a litmus test on abortion for Democratic candidates.