Division Amongst Democrats
“They have wrecked the party,” states Jeff Weaver (a political adviser to Bernie Sanders and his presidential campaign manager) to moderate members in an auditorium at New York. He battled with Jonathan Cowan, president of the centrist think-tank Third Way.
In 2016, Democrats lost in one of the most dramatic presidential elections ever. The House and Senate remained in Republican control which left Democrats arguably at their lowest point in a century. Now the party has moved sharply away from his roots towards a more activist left base. Across the country, the Democratic Party has seen rise in women, minorities and young people.
A big battle for Biden should he be elected is the fierce debate in his party. The centre versus the left.
“I am a progressive, and I deliver progressive results.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s win over left wing Cynthia Nixon in New York provided a win for the more Centrist believers. Cuomo who had corporate ties was an example of what the Left hate with regards his elitist status. “Not even a ripple,” he said after boasting that the new wave of progressive victories would not occur. He did state that he possessed many ideas that could be seen as progressive such as legalising gay marriage and raising minimum wage. “I’m not a socialist. I am not 25 years old. I’m not a newcomer,” Cuomo said. “But I am a progressive, and I deliver progressive results.” Centrists watching will have been welcoming of his victory. History supports that progressive counterparts don’t win elections. Brookings Institution’s Primaries Project shows that in every election since 2014, non-incumbent establishment Democrats did better than progressive counterparts.
However, there are clear signs that the party is shifting. In 2014, 26% of the Democratic candidates referred to themselves as progressive whereas in 2018, it rose to 44%.
Bernie Sanders, adopted a very progressive platform where he called for free college for families earning $125,000 or less and Medicare options for Americans from the age of 55. A great example of the march to the left since Hillary Clinton’s defeat. Some are calling for jail time for people in the banking sector and are publicly announcing Democrats who disagree with supporting abortion rights. Strategist Adam Green told candidates’ in Washington that “Running on progressive values is how Democrats will win.”
At Presidential level, the most progressive nominees all failed in recent times with huge defeats (Michael Dukakis in 1998 and Walter Mondale in 1984). However this new liberal vision is very popular amongst the younger generations of Democrats with surveys showing that 43% of 18 to 29 year olds felt they were more liberal than the party. Attempts to manage the rifts in the party have not worked with Tom Perez (party chairman) and Bernie Sanders falling out with the latter declaring that the current model of the party is an “absolute failure.”
Activists have aligned with Sanders who’s group “Our Revolution” has provided a platform for more liberalists. “Our Revolution” provides support and endorsement for candidates who believe in the same vision as Bernie Sanders’ vision for Democratic Party. The organisation has gained traction with many candidates being listed as part the revolution including Acevero who could be the first gay man of Afro-Latino descent with a seat in Maryland House.
In various districts where Republicans have the majority, democratic voters in the 2018 mid-terms went for candidates who have not embraced “Medicare for all” and a federal minimum wage. After Democrats win the house, moderates argued that the results showed that left-wing populism is not the best way method to win voters. However progressives would argue that the loss in 2016 proved that the best way to defeat Trump and the Republicans would be with radical ideas that bring in more liberals and non-traditional voters.
Interestingly Democratic politician Rep. Ro Khanna believes that the battle within the Democratic Party is more about new versus the old rather than left versus centre. He believes it is about “anti-establishment” and that it is about “a failed generation of congressional leadership.” It is evident that the Democratic Party is going through an identity change and that even with Biden, they are still fighting with the idea of where to go. Moderates are weary of going too far left and Republicans agree with many of them being very optimistic about the primaries having many liberal candidates.
They are many questions for the Democratic Party and Joe Biden should they win this election. Does he embrace the rising left-wing populism or return to a more central ground?