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Trump's outlandish op-ed has a silver lining for Democrats

Updated 10:49 AM ET, Fri October 12, 2018

Editor's Note: Jim Himes, a Democrat, represents Connecticut's 4th District in the US House of Representatives. The views expressed here are solely his. View more opinion articles on CNN.

(CNN) - It's rare these days for me to pick up the paper, read an outright lie from the President and feel encouraged about the future. And yet I took great joy, as Chairman of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, in seeing President Trump declare in an op-ed this week that "the centrist Democratic Party is dead."

Ridiculous as his claim is, here's why I can't help but smile:

New Democrats now stand at 68 members of the House. Separately, the NewDemPAC is additionally backing 67 candidates in primarily Republican-held Congressional Districts all across the country .

Put differently, centrist Democrats represent roughly one-third of the Democratic caucus and are well-positioned to help sweep in a Democratic majority.

The President's claim ignores the reality on the ground, surprising no one. Instead, he uses his op-ed to build up a straw man he can feebly knock down, standing on the fiction of a Democratic majority that would ram through government-run health care and "open-border socialism" at the southern border.

It's nonsense, top to bottom.

Democrats have been clear about their priorities. We've touted the need to end the Republican sabotage of the American health care system and fix the ACA. New Democrats call it our "Solutions over Politics" plan, and our members have put forward a series of common-sense ideas to get there, all part of the overall effort to provide more affordable health insurance options.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are laying plans to do exactly that, while Democratic candidates are running on the need to do the same.

True to form, Republican-aligned Super PACs are running ads falsely claiming that Democratic candidates want to push a government-run, Medicare-for-all agenda in Congress.

But Democratic candidates running for office this year, by and large, are backing reforms that would strengthen the system we have today, not running on Medicare-for-all as Republicans want voters to believe. Independent fact checkers -- including the Washington Post -- have repeatedly knocked these claims down.

The same is true with immigration. The President's op-ed paints Democrats as supporting "open-borders socialism." The reality is far more pragmatic. Democrats have called for responsible policies at the border since the President took office, including those running for the House this year.

Not one single Democrat failed to sign onto an effort earlier this year to move towards compromise on DACA and DREAMers, but Republicans shut the process down -- a playbook we've seen before. In 2013, when bipartisan immigration-reform legislation passed the Senate, it was hardline Republicans in the House who killed the effort.

Where President Trump may be confused is in Democrats' unified opposition to his radical immigration agenda, which so far has shown itself to be both hapless and cruel. Separating families at the border and building an expensive, ineffective border wall won't win support from a Democratic majority that believes we can have strong borders without surrendering our commitment to reform or our democratic ideals.

So why, after getting it so wrong, did the President's op-ed make me smile? It's simple. The op-ed is a tacit admission that his policies can't stand up to ours in the court of public opinion.

All across the country, including in key swing congressional districts, voters are looking for a measured approach to move this country forward. That's exactly what members of our coalition and our candidates in the field consistently offer going into November. The President has to say otherwise because these authentic individuals offer a winning message, against which the President and his allies simply cannot compete.

I remain optimistic in our chances at a comeback this year. If this holds true, our President and those Republicans who remain in the House and Senate will have an opportunity to show the country that they're ready to do exactly what American voters -- and many Democrats in Congress -- have asked for these past two years: to reach across the aisle and get something done.

Centrist Democrats are very much alive, and already doing work that speaks to this desire. It's my hope that those on the other side of the aisle will leave the President's withered breed of politics on the sideline and join Democrats -- centrist, progressive and otherwise -- to make real progress.

There's good work to be done, and it's all hands on deck.

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