In the past days, both Max Boot and Fareed Zakaria have published articles excoriating elements of extremism on the left side of the American Democratic Party.
While they make pertinent observations about the viability of the leftward push within the Democratic Party, there are elements of their criticism that should be reconsidered.
In his piece, Boot makes several valid points regarding how extremism of values, and inability to compromise may harm Democratic prospects to pass meaningful legislation. Where he should be challenged is his push for a top-down rebalancing of the party towards the center, a moderation the party. The reasons are the same as those which question the rightness of those those trying to push the party to the left.
The core of the party should never be its ideological positions; this is the ground for political failure in the United States. It should instead circle around critical pieces of policy which the parties can rally support behind pre-election, and then push through with a mandate post-election.
There is a large debate already within the Democratic party over the merits of advocating such forceful, but perhaps unrealistic, policies that would never pass both chambers of congress, such as the “Green New Deal.” Many on the left, in full realization of the impossibility of the passage of this legislation, support such radical pushes as conversation starters, initial negotiating points to then be backed off of later.
The centrists may be partially right that this is the wrong way to look at legislation, and represents Trumpian politics at its very core. This form of negotiation typically does not work in an organization as complex as the US congress. The way legislation passes is not like a business deal, where both sides are eager to close. In politics, typically, one side favors passage, and the other favors status quo, and therefore has no incentive to bother negotiating instead of attempting to scuttle a deal. The only method to pass legislation with one party support in a divided congress has been to link one side’s aim with something the other side wants, a compromise, or win an overwhelming majority in congress in the next election. Without either of these, wasting energy crafting a bill that will never pass, instead of using that time and effort to start a conversation in public, seems like a poor use of time. When Republicans seem so eager, too, to put such controversial legislation to a vote, it is indicative of the potential to further divide the democratic party along a false ideological spectrum.
Fareed Zakaria makes a different mistake, he creates a false dichotomy between idealism in policy and practicality, or as he calls it incrementalism. The fact is, there is an extremely wide gap between extremism and inaction, and good progressive policy need not be incremental or fearful of disturbing a so called healthy norm in America. Contrary to the unemployment numbers and GDP growth levels, America is in crisis.
Millions have dropped themselves from the employment pool masking deep structural chasms in unemployment statistics. Demographic growth continues to plummet even as the unreformed immigration system pulls new people mostly through family reunification instead of skilled workers and lowers the productive potential of the US. The economy becomes more unequal year after year as education, previously the best means of class equalization, becomes increasingly expensive preventing socioeconomic mobility by straddling youth with decades of debt that will prevent them from becoming homeowners, parents, American consumers. These are just the socio-economic problems that exist, separate from the issues around climate change, the most inefficient and underperforming healthcare system in the OECD that gets more expensive every year, and the urban housing concerns that each year make home ownership less and less feasible for those who aren’t well off. The American dream is dying, and those who favor the status quo, or microscopic incrementalism, over true progress are the ones standing idle while watching it die.
Calling public healthcare an impossibility is a dereliction of the American values of equality and a shameful retreat from American potential. Fareed Zakaria displays wisdom and moderation in most of his political analyses, but on this, he fails to recognize the crisis, nor does it seem like any of the members of his elite class are willing to sacrifice to achieve this. Most of the other policies he mentioned are on point, but to dismiss progressive policies that work in dozens of other countries over some unverifiable cost concerns seems disingenuous, and perhaps even cruel to the millions of American who die every year directly or indirectly from lack of equitable access to the healthcare system.
Rational policy should indeed prevail, and truth and facts should be important, but radical policy shifts and rationalism need not be mutually exclusive. Two decades ago, marijuana decriminalization was deemed infeasible and had the potential to lead to societal collapse; the same was said over gay marriage. On medicare for all, he displays his conservativism for the existing policy, and this is antithetical to a party who defines itself as being for progress.
If the Democratic party wants to retake the North, the freshman ought to slow down on their radicalism of action and rhetoric and the popular support of such shifts, true. However, the party is broad and it need not “moderate” its individual members, but simply refocus the party narrative. More important is an increased focus on popular economic issues first, with social policy treating the consequences of economic inequality second to some of the larger structural shifts that must occur, such as low minimum wages, healthcare, and low capital gains rates.
Strong policy proposals are the issues that will win them back the Rustbelt, and based on the rules in the Constitution that dictate apportionment, winning a broad swath of the states is the only means that they have to win real power instead of operating as a permanent minority party meaning there needs to be a deep push to incorporate the wishes of the poor and disenfranchised by the coastal elite as they perceive. This includes more extreme redistributive measures and economic development programs, and a moderation of cultural pushes.
Where they are both wrong is regarding ideological purity. He is as wrong as AOC in ignoring the necessity of the broad base that makes up the Democratic Party. Dismissing the progressive wings of the party and mislabelling them as loony is as damaging as the progressive wing mislabelling moderation and pragmatism within the party as corporatist sellouts. The infighting is dangerous and the party needs to work together to accommodate both wings and focus on governance, power and passable legislation instead of rhetoric and useless talk.
This is how the democratic party can effect change. Operating as a minority party is the future for the Democratic Party, regardless of demographic change that are always panned as the savior for progressivism, should the party not come together and focus on universal issues to Americans. Winning elections, and pushing for progressive values are the two ways that the democratic party can effect change, not by dividing themselves between left and moderate wings, but by compromising within under the policies that America needs.
Staff writer: Ari B
Photo: Indio, California
The original articles are here: