From 1941 to 1945, The United States and The Soviet Union found themselves in an unlikely alliance, united in their desire to vanquish the Nazi scourge from the face of the Earth. Even before the war was over, however, both superpowers were plotting how they would stick it to the other. After all, they had competing ideologies, and competing spheres of influence into which they could funnel resources; into Europe, into Africa, and into Persia. The only thing keeping the two together was the Nazi Empire, but as soon as that was no longer a threat, the two were at each other’s throats.
Such is the situation that the Democrats have now found themselves in in the Trump era. The mainstream of the party has made it clear that the new strategy is to chase after moderate conservatives and voters in the suburbs. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer even said as much in 2016:
“For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”
On the other hand, progressives have had enough. Although they will begrudgingly support Joe Biden for president, Biden has done little more than spit in the eye of progressives and openly flaunt how little regard he has for them, and progressives will put their foot down starting November 4th. Progressives have made it clear that under Biden, perhaps they will stay home when they are needed until progressive needs are addressed first.
So which is the way to go forward, then? One must win over. Should Democrats continue to hemorrhage working-class voters, or should they embrace a new type of politics?
Well, let’s get two things out of the way. First, the “moderate Republicans” so coveted by Chuck Schumer are very unreliable Democratic voters. The Venn diagram of beliefs between a “moderate” Republican and a run-of-the-mill Democrat intersects in very, very few places, especially when it comes to culture. Not to mention, there are barely any “moderate” Republicans, anyways; 91% of Republicans polled in June said they approve of Trump.
And furthermore: what happens after Trump is defeated? Democrats have been running almost exclusively on resistance to Trump (regardless of how harsh that resistance has actually been), but once that lightning rod is gone, what do Democrats have to offer?
Perhaps there is a way to kill two birds with one stone. A bold, new progressive agenda that is unafraid of the future would be an excellent placeholder to fill the vacuum that Trump would leave behind, and could claim back working-class voters that the Democrats have lost to Republicans and could even make inroads with some Republican voters.
Now, I get it. Moderate voters are genuinely worried about losing elections with “radical” ideas. I get it. But when are we Democrats going to grow a spine? When are we going to fight for what’s right? And are you really telling me we are so afraid we won’t even touch a policy supported by a MAJORITY of Americans?
We don’t have to adopt the entire progressive agenda overnight, but let’s start with Medicare-For-All. That would be a tremendous first step.
The greatest political leaders in America were born out of the fires of adversity. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born out of segregation; Abraham Lincoln was born out of emancipation; Samuel Gompers was born out of The Gilded Age; and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born out of The Second World War. Was it easy to pursue those battles? Was there fierce opposition? Of course there was, but we emerged the better because of those fierce battle. We got the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the end to legal slavery, victories for organized labor, and victory against fascism because of those fights.
Modern-day Democrats would have just thrown up their arms and proclaimed such ordeals “too radical.” They would postpone such fights for another time, and when that time came they would postpone it again, and so on and so forth. Soon enough, you are no longer postponing, but rather conforming to what happens around you. It is The Republicans who shape the vessel, and Democrats that fill it. It becomes Democrats who react and Republicans who act, and it becomes The Republicans alone who guide the conversation and shape the discourse.
This fear has resulted in the current state of the Democratic Party: a perpetually lame-duck party that is made to feel lucky if they so much as receive crumbs of pity. This cannot go on. Democrats must reverse course at once and return to their working-class roots.
Remember what John F. Kennedy said? “We choose to go to the moon, not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard?” Exactly. Democrats have got to get back in the fighting ring. It is their only chance to mend the cracks in the party and fight for the lives of millions of ordinary Americans. If they do not, they are at dire risk of fading into the annals of history as just another obtuse opposition party.
Featured Image by Zach Gibson, Getty Images.