The Democratic Party is at a Crossroad
The past three years show a growing division among the Democratic party, between the traditional Social Liberal ideas and the more radical Democratic Socialist wing.
Breaking into the Mainstream
Back in the day, socialism was considered taboo in US politics. When neo-liberal ideas dominated, and the Soviet Union was perceived as the greatest threat to the world’s freedom, proclaiming yourself as a socialist was political suicide. Over the years the discourse has changed and ostensibly reached its breaking point in the 2016 presidential elections.
Bernie Sanders has been a prominent figure in US politics since 1991, but it was in 2016 Democratic Primaries, that he made his name across the country. From the start, he became the underdog of the primaries, running against a well-established Social Liberal - Hillary Clinton. His socialist views created an opposition that, surprisingly, Clinton had to take seriously.
Due to the very right-wing views Trump embodies, there has been an increase in more left-wing views. Calls to repeal Obamacare led people to support the idea of universal healthcare. Tax-cuts for the rich came together with a spike in calls to tax them more. This mechanism repeats itself in most political issues.
It may be because people tend to be more outspoken when a situation affects them directly, rather than a situation which they feel is not worth standing up against. There is a point when political apathy among voters breaks down - this can be seen via Trump’s platform. People who were not interested in politics before now vote, or even run in elections, as many of them did in the midterms.
New vs Progressive
The late 1980s and early 1990s showed a new face of the Democratic Party - the New Dems. A Social Liberal wing based on the Keynesian approaches in Neo-Liberal ideas. This platform may not have won Dukakis or Al Gore the presidency but, it did so for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Liberalism, in social issues combined with regulated Keynesian capitalism, was the base of the Democratic Party for the past 30 years. It is the view shared by Democratic elites, and this is why Superdelegates voted for Clinton instead of Sanders.
However, it lost. Not only did it lose to the conservative populist narrative delivered by Trump, but they also lost in the eyes of many Democratic supporters. Many believe that the Democratic Party has not delivered on their promises and thus there was a need for a change. A change of narrative and generations.
She personifies the movement better than anyone else. She embodies diversity, has a new-comer background, is young, is a socialist, and she is anti-establishment. That is why she became the face of the movement in the House of Representatives. Her quick career led the way for many other Progressive Democrats to Congress.
Undermining the authority of established Democrats has become apparent and more existent than ever before. Even though the rebellion against Nancy Pelosi’s leadership in the House failed, the fact that so many Representatives dared to stand-up against her is a precedent on its own. The divide between the two factions is getting more extensive, and it seems that progressive socialists are overshadowing the centrists.
For many years in US politics, there was a dichotomy, that mostly meant, if you were a liberal, you would consider yourself to be a Democrat, and if you were conservative, a Republican. Now the connotations have changed, more often than not a Democrat is seen as a leftist and a Republican as a populist. The representation of centre in US politics seems to be shrinking, despite the fact that the majority of the population considers themselves to be a centrist.
Again, and again there are cases where the centrists feel betrayed by their party. However, politicians who are supposed to represent them not only are losing momentum but also convincing potential voters not to support them. Either by not being able to create a decent platform, losing to more progressive candidates, or saying things against their voters’ opinions, for example, recent comments on refugees made by Hillary Clinton.
The Democratic party is on the crossroads, and it seems that the establishment is not trying to get more votes, they are instead protecting their power internally. Letting the progressives take centre stage and gain momentum, thereby leaving the socially liberal Democrats behind. With policies of the progressives appealing to the younger crowd and the sense and the sense of ineffectiveness from the establishment, the party is changing. We are bound to see who has the upper hand, in the 2020 primaries.