The Left and 2020
In my first article of 2019, I spoke about how this year is likely to be the year of battles and division on both sides of the aisle. Recent developments suggest that this prediction seems to come to fruition sooner than one could predict.
State of the Party
On February 5th after a delay caused by the government shutdown, President Trump delivered his long-awaited State of the Union, where he outlined the high points of his presidency and the problems the government is battling under his lead. Over the time of his speech he covered many topics but arguably none of them has caused such a divided reaction among the Democrats as his remarks about the US never becoming a socialist country. From standing ovation to complete discontent, the reactions among the Democrats show the Party’s divided response to the direction their most active wing is taking.
The State of the Union came right in the time of truce suspending the shutdown, at a time when the President’s approval ratingwas below 40%, and his Party was blamed for 800 000 federal employees being stranded without pay. However, due to a careful choice of topics covered and many bipartisan calls, Donald Trump walked out of Congress with 76% viewers approvingof his address. Despite the fact that a response from the Democrats came quick, President’s approval ratings jumped over the 40% margin. A failure to find a common voice among the opposition, visible in the responses during the speech, including Nancy Pelosi’s passive aggressive behaviour, did not convince the audience on television that the Democrats have a common agenda.
Breaking with the past
The Party is creating an increasingly progressive platform, but their not-so-much progressive past came back to haunt them at the least appropriate time. The dark past connected to the white supremacy wing of the Party, especially powerful during the Civil Rights Movement, came back to light with a photo from a Medical School yearbook page dedicated to Ralph Northam, Governor of Virginia. A photo depicting two men, one in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan uniform, went viral starting calls for his resignation.
At the same time, the gubernatorial office in Virginia was hit by past once again, this time it was the Lieutenant Governor, Justin E. Fairfax, who was accused by two women of sexual assault.Both the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor deny any wrongdoing and oppose any impeachment procedures. However, the Party in the state was hit once again when the Attorney General, Mark R. Herring confessed to wearing blackfaceas an undergraduate.
One of the most important states for the Democratic Party was hit three times in the span of days, with three top officials, all Democrats, being called to resign. Accusations of racism and sexual assault do not provide good PR for a Party which proudly supports racial equality and women’s rights. The majority of Party members heavily criticised the three Virginian officials, but it had not washed down the shame the Party that so desperately tries to break with their past.
Green and Blue
The progressive wing of the Party has recently brought forward, for the first time officially, their resolution to restructure the US economyusing Keynesian Revivalist practices, focussing largely on pro-environmental causes. The Green New Deal, introduced by Ed Markey and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez proposes a heavy inflow of government investment to the economy, combined with high regulations on businesses, aimed at limiting pollution.
The plan which relies heavily on the ideas inspired by the 1930’s Interventionism, has received mixed support. Most of the Democratic candidates for President in 2020 quickly jumped on the bandwagon, some even sponsoring the resolution. On the other hand, the more centre Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, has expressed lesser enthusiasm, while the Republicans seem to enjoythe exhibition of Democrats’ movement to the political left.
The movement itself seems to be the core of the division among the Democrats, around which both the primaries and the elections might revolve. Nancy Pelosi’s wing of the Party is gradually losing its power and momentum, while the progressives gain recognition even further. Their reformist, revolutionary strength seems to overshadow the more established wing which struggles to find their way in the changing discourse and slowly loses its base to the progressives or the political limbo.
Paradox of plenty
The race for the nomination for 2016 Presidential elections composed of seven major candidates and two clear main contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Currently, eight major candidates declared running for President on the Democratic side, while more are expected to do so soon, however, there does not seem to be a clear candidate among them. On the other side of the aisle, there is the total opposite, as only Donald Trump declared running and he so far seems to be sure of being on the ballot for the primaries. Both cases are problematic, but the one on the side of Democrats illustrates well the issues the Party is currently facing.
A crisis of leadership is one that Democrats are battling since Donald Trump was elected President. It seemed that Bernie Sanders might become the new leader, but he has gradually decreased in activity, in a way giving up this position to the younger members of his wing, especially Representative Ocasio-Cortez. On the other side, Nancy Pelosi would like to be such a leader, but her unapproachability and roughness distanced her from the members of her Party.
Without leadership, the Party is less consistent in their political position, making it easier for the progressives to push Democrats to the left of the spectrum. This crisis is going to be particularly visible in the upcoming months when the race is going to tighten up, especially that there are not really any major differences between candidates in terms of political positions. All of them follow the current ideology of the Party: battling racial and gender inequality, education, and health care. They, of course, vary to the extent to which they focus on these issues and how they want to solve them, but for a common voter, the choice will probably have to be based on how the candidates appeal to them on a personal level.
As the division in the Party grows, it is possible that soon some of the existing candidates might leave the pack and try to represent the alternative to the main movement. To some extent that alternative is currently covered by the independent candidate, former Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz. He is a businessman and not a politician nor a celebrity, thus he will probably only play a minor role in the elections, but if he gathers enough following, he might swing the elections more to the centre, and with it, some candidates may change their stance.