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The President Matters

Among Democrats today, the discussion is about how far left the Democratic Party needs to swing to capture the energy and votes of younger and poorer and minority voters. The victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, in her New York primary election has been hailed as a sign of things to come. Now Ocasio-Cortez is holding rallies with Bernie Sanders, another Democratic Socialist, to bring out new voters who can topple the Republican domination of our government. Moderate Democrats, such as attendees at the recent Opportunities 2020 convention in Columbus Ohio, fear that ultra-progressive Democrats such as Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez will scare away center-leaning voters and hijack the Party with a message that resonates only with a few supporters who reside amid the already blue districts, while alienating everyone else.

As Tip O’Neill said, “all politics is local,” and that is much truer in an off-year election than in one that elects a president. So far we have seen both moderate and very progressive Democratic candidates win primaries in their districts. While the issues they address may not always be local ones, because they are running for national offices, the attitudes of their constituents may very well be unique to their location.

Personally, I think that Medicare for All, Free Public College Tuition, and some kind of guaranteed jobs program are reasonable and workable ideas, although I can’t imagine any of them being enacted during a Trump presidency and for sure, not by a Republican controlled congress. Support of such programs may serve to provide an indication of how far left a candidate is, but it also is an indication of how far left his or her constituency is. Liberal Democrats, without embracing controversial ideas in districts that are populated mostly by moderates can still advocate for environmental protection, measures to curb climate change, a reasonable and humane immigration policy, the kind of subsidized health care offered under Obamacare, a fairer tax structure, and a rational foreign policy, based on coordination of American interests and efforts with our like-minded traditional allies. Progressive Democrats in progressive-leaning districts can go full-tilt progressive.

A president with a congress dominated by his opposition party is impaired in enacting his or her vision. We saw that with Barack Obama in his second term. Conversely, a president supported by a majority of his party in congress can do a lot of things even his own party members don’t like because he or she controls so much of public opinion and his or her election was proof of support by a majority of voters in that party. We've seen exactly that with Donald Trump.

If the Democratic Party is going to swing left, it needs to do so in a two-step process. First elect as many progressive Democrats as possible in the mid-term elections, then nominate a progressive candidate for president in 2020. The majority of Democratic moderates will support progressive policies and programs if they are the will of the majority of the party and are the policies of an elected president.

If there is a Democratic wave during the midterms it will be one that is fueled by distrust and abhorrence of Donald Trump and of Republican politicians who have failed to put a check on his actions. Those who distrust and abhor Trump include both progressives and moderates. Die-hard Trump loyal Republicans should be most vulnerable. If the country receives a message that people are fed-up with Trump and with weak-kneed Trump followers among the Republican Party, by observing a Blue Wave building in 2018, then the stage is open for new leadership to articulate the message of the Democrats. It will be a national message and one geared toward 2020 and beyond. Enthusiasm for political change can be supercharged by a progressive candidate for president. I happen to believe that going back to politics as usual as a remedy to Donald Trump is a dismal strategy. Even it is successful, it will leave us with the same big-money controlled congress, tax and economic programs stacked against wage-earners and favoring the accumulation of capital by the rich, and with hordes of poor people whose opportunities are limited by their parents’ educational and financial means as well as by the failing institutions of education, health care, and criminal justice that characterize large urban and rural pockets of our country. Medicare for All, Free Public College Tuition, a guaranteed jobs program, and a revised tax structure, as well as some method for driving the influence of big business and wealth out of politics, are among the reasonable answers to these problems. A national election, which includes a presidential election, is the time to bring the progressive wave to the forefront. Right now we need to elect opponents of the current regime.

Reader Comments (1)

Yes, I agree. And let us not start the usual Democratic firing circle by name-calling and infighting about how progressive or centrist candidates are. The two steps are essential.

July 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAnca Vlasopolos

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