Progressives said they could dominate U.S. politics by boosting turnout. The election proved them wrong.
Jilani's analysis is correct, but the title of this piece is misleading. It suggests that, having been apprised of these realities, progressives will acknowledge them and their implications and, if nothing else, be more strategic. The problem is that the progressives who make these claims about the electorate and their favored candidates/policy agenda almost certainly will not acknowledge that the election tested their dream and found it wanting. AOC is a perfect example. Yes, she's politically talented, though I won't call her "brilliant" as my social circles demand. How brilliant is it to undercut moderate dems in districts she could never be elected in? My long experience as a women's studies prof is relevant here. My students--and tens of thousands just like them all across the US--are learning from their English professors, their women's studies professors, their cultural anthropology professors, their ethnic studies professors, and oh so many others that no amount of data should get in the way of their "radical" belief system and that all who try to browbeat with them "facts" constitute a kind of "deep academia" of disloyalists who should be unmasked and punished. The depressing reality is that, in many disciplines, universities are steadily pumping out the kinds of young adults who, like their true compatriots on the right, would rather punish the oppressors than conform their views to data and sober analysis.
In a zoom class the day after the election, one of my students posted in the chat the claim that if Bernie had been the Dem nominee, the election would've been a landslide for the Dems. Other students clapped. I've tried before, and I'm sure I'll try again, but I know from experience that there was nothing I could have said that would have caused those students to think twice. Showing them data and analysis? You know how Fox News viewers respond to "data"? Yeah, it's like that.
Some aspects of the progressive agenda are popular, while others are downright toxic. The Republican party, which in general is very good at hardball politics, has done an excellent job of getting voters to focus on the toxic aspects. There are a lot of blue-collar Trump voters that would love to see universal health care, for instance, but won't vote for politicians that will actually pass that legislation if they also think they will take away their guns or get them fired from their jobs for not being woke enough.
In March 2016, an op-ed by Robert Reich imagined a future in which “millions who called themselves conservatives and Tea Partiers joined with millions who called themselves liberals and progressives” and captured “the U.S. presidency and a majority of both houses of Congress in 2020.” In his March 2020 book, How We Fix It, he claims “a new party could unite the disaffected and anti-establishment elements of both major parties and give voice to the 90% of Americans.”
A month after his 2016 op-ed, 20 volunteers from Sanders’ campaign, led by top campaign staffer Zack Exley, formed the “Brand New Congress” PAC “to replace Congress all at once” in 2018 with lawmakers who agreed with Sanders. They were joined by the Justice Democrats PAC and the Sanders’ Our Revolution super PAC.
In the 2018 midterms, those three PACs made 117 radical endorsements for the House and promised to elect Berniecrats even in deep-red states! So how many districts did they manage to turn from red to blue? Zero. As in none.
The blue wave was almost entirely powered by moderates and the New Dem PAC, which endorsed 33 of the 43 candidates who did flip seats from red to blue.
Did the far-left learn anything? Now they will help the progressive cause by fighting Biden and likely losing the 2022 midterms for us.
But what’s exciting is the collection of comments on this post. The Persuasion Community is fantastic!
Great insight! A lot of the left operates from a ‘field of dreams’ strategy: announce your platform and the voters will come. They don’t have a feel for the rough and tumble ‘sausage-making’ nature of the American political beast. They don’t understand politics or the art of winning people over. It’s much easier to just declare your ideology. How is CRT going to stop trigger-happy police from shooting unarmed African-Americans? Do we just wait until all whites connect with their inner white-supremest ?
I was unpersuaded, surprised actually, by a recent short essay in the Wall Street Journal by Cenk Uygur. He asserted that mainstream Democrats get out of the way of progressives if Democrats want to win elections. As Zaid's piece explains, until progressive candidates start winning elections in districts held by Republicans (instead of replacing mainstream Democrats in overwhelmingly D districts), they have no claim to D party leadership. The converse seems to have been demonstrated: they stimulate turn-out in competitive districts by Republicans and moderates who oppose the progressive agenda, no?
I completely agree. I have two distinct issues with Democratic Progressives: First, will their strategies work politically? Do they correctly perceive the wishes of the US electorate? I think your essay goes directly to that point. But a second issue is whether their policies are wise. I'd say that some are, but others are not. I've seen plenty of comment from the non-crazy Right on the intrinsic flaws of the Progressive analysis, but IMHO too little from the non-crazy Democratic center. For example, accepting that the US Geni index is too high, the question of how to solve that problem is not entirely simple.
Both the progressives and the moderates have a point.
The fact is, the county is moving left in many areas and embracing what were traditionally thought of as "leftist" policies.
Gay marriage, now supported by big majorities. Some form of help with health care is desired by most Americans. Americans are all over the country are bypassing their own legislature and raising the minimum wages of their states. Marijuana legalization is growing. Justice reform is popular, Florida voted to restore voting rights to felons...
These are all from the left. So I would say the progressives are right in this area. But the moderates are right that the messaging is killing them.
The Dems have always had a problem with messaging. Republicans are masters at scaring the bejeesus out of people.
My solution is to start pointing out to people on the right that they actually favor leftist policies, AND to point out how many times the Republican scare machine has been wrong. Remember when the right said "if we pass medicare we will be telling our grandchildren about when we were free?" And how, if gay marriage passed, it would "ruin" straight marriages? And if Obamacare passed, it would lead to "rationed care"? None of those things happened. NONE of what they ever warn about ever comes to pass.
We don't need a civil war in our party. We need the moderates to understand that the country is moving leftward. AND they need to be part of that. They need to sell the policies, and push back on those who claim "socialism" by stating what I said above. That the right always tries to scare people. And we need the progressives to understand that each district is not at the same place. Just because red county Indiana now accepts gay marriage, does not mean they want to implement the green new deal.
So what we need is both sides trying to get their constituents in the same place. The progressives can help by visiting moderate districts. The moderates can visit liberal districts. These sides can here each other's constituents, and formulate a strategy moving forward.
It is not hard if they just keep the liberal agenda front and center and understand the country is moving with them. Focus on the areas that the country is more in tune with all together, and move more slowly where there are still big differences.
I like what Talib said to Biden "I will not be your favorite, because I am on a different timeline.". Some districts need the help NOW. That is why the progressives tend to push harder. The white suburb does not need as much help as a Flint family that does not even have safe water to drink.
Understanding that parts of the country are in different places, and deciding what can be accomplished first, which will help the most people, should help.
Don't be down Dems! YOUR IDEAS ARE WINNING THE DAY!! Make that your lodestar. ONWARD!!!!
Another good article. The left-wing liberals certainly alienated this moderate independent.
An excellent analysis of the situation, and I hope rational voices in the Democratic Party listen.
Okay so the loss of Nebraska’s Kara Eastman is illustrative, but, for example, the same state banning predatory payday lending practices, Florida passing "Fight for 15" minimum wage legislation, and Arizona, Montana and Arizona passing legalized recreational Marijuana usage isn't? Alright.