Democrats of influence (no names need be mentioned) need to stop attacking the progressive wing their own party. It's happened a number of times in the past few weeks, and it needs to stop immediately. If there's one obvious lesson to come out of the 2018 midterm election, it's that the Democratic Party is far stronger when it's united than when it's divided.
When Hillary Clinton won the 2016 primary election, she gave an inspiring acceptance speech that should have reunified the party. The problem is, following that speech, her campaign and many of its most avid supporters adopted a different tactic, proceeding to belittle and insult progressive voters rather than work with them. Instead of incorporating the most sensible progressive reforms and ideas that had elicited so much excitement among Bernie's followers, the Clinton campaign made clear that it wasn't going to make any significant changes. Progressives were in no uncertain terms instructed to get in line, shut their mouths, and stand with their party - even if their party wasn't going to stand with them. Not only did this command fail to inspire progressives - it was insulting and pushed many Democratic voters to either stay home on Election Day, or in the alternative vote for a third party candidate who hadn't shown hostility to the progressive movement.
Hillary would later go on to write in her book "What Happened" that Bernie "didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party." From her perspective, that might seem right, but from the perspective of progressive Democrats, Bernie Sander's campaign wasn't about disrupting the Democratic Party - it was about reforming it. What Hillary failed to comprehend was that many Democrats aren't interested in putting their party first... they're exhausted by the whole "partisanship-first" mentality. What they are interested in is putting the good of their country (and the good of the world) first, and they want a party that shares those priorities. To those voters, voting isn't just some sport where you root for your home team just because they're the home team. It's about standing up for the issues that matter most to you. It's about voting for things that you care about, and voting for candidates that you genuinely believe in.
Whereas Clinton's campaign platform included some inspired ideas, such as significant financial reforms, there were other areas of the platform that seemed designed to pander to moderate conservatives at the expense of progressive priorities: Environmentalists took note of the fact that she wasn't all that opposed to fracking; drug policy reform advocates were informed that legalizing marijuana wasn't a priority; even universal health care advocates were left out in the cold, told that Hillary would make some modifications to the ACA, but wasn't interested in working towards the adoption of a single-payer model anytime soon. Rather than working with progressives, the Clinton campaign simply labeled anything that Bernie had advocated for as "unrealistic" while failing to recognize the folly of belittling progressives and the progressive agenda, and consequently lost because of it.
Despite progressives coming out in droves in the 2018 midterms, and helping to make the desperately-needed "blue wave" happen, and the Democrats arguably winning control of the House of Representatives because of it, in recent weeks there have been a number of unprovoked attacks on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party from within, from David Brock to Nate Silver to even Democratic members of Congress. It needs to stop. The simple fact is that the majority of the American consciousness is moving in a progressive direction, and Democratic Party currently needs to get out ahead and show leadership rather than resistance.
- We need to address climate change, and way faster than we are currently doing so.
- We need to fix our democracy, which means ending gerrymandering and eliminating the unnecessary role that money plays in our elections.
- We need to simplify our health care system, make sure everyone is covered on all the basics, and still leave room for private competition in areas where competition is appropriate.
- We need to revamp our entire educational system, from pre-k through doctoral programs, and make it possible for anyone to pursue their dreams without needing to agree to take on excessive debt.
- We need gun laws that work, and which protect both the public's safety as well as our Second Amendment rights.
- We need to reinvent our criminal justice system, end the concept that prison is a one-size-fits-all solution to our problems, and create a new system that prioritizes reform, rehabilitation, efficiency, justice, compassion and redemption.
- Last but not least, we need to embrace fiscal responsibility.
These ideas aren't offensive. They're common sense. They're logical.
Winning in 2020 won't be a contest between conservatism and liberalism - it will be a contest between progressivism and regressivism. It's time that the leadership of the Democratic Party wake up to the shifting landscape of American political thought, embrace the progressive wing of the party, and lead us into the future.
Note: This post was originally published on AmericanMillennials.com on January 4, 2019.