While certain left-of-center commenters on this blog say that I’m being an alarmist in talking about socialism among Democratic presidential candidates, it doesn’t look that way from inside the party’s strategists. In National Journal today, this from Josh Kraushaar:
Anyone tracking the positions of the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates would think there weren’t any moderates left in the party. California Sen. Kamala Harris reiterated that her co-sponsorship of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All legislation would mean the abolition of private insurance at a nationally-televised town hall last month. Five leading candidates endorsed a Green New Deal that imposes a top-down revolution of American society to mitigate the impact of climate change.
But when you look at the polls breaking down the actual Democratic electorate, you’ll find limited support for such socialist-minded schemes. Broaden out to the overall electorate, and it’s easy to see how Democrats could be giving President Trump a lifeline to a second term despite his widespread unpopularity.
“We are on an out-of-control roller coaster going 100 miles-per-hour, and we have no functioning brake,” said one liberal Democratic strategist who is alarmed by the rising tide of socialism within the party. “No one is leading and that void could not be more clear.”
What’s so remarkable about this rapid leftward shift is that it’s working against the party’s best interests—both for the individual candidates and their chances of defeating Trump next year. So many candidates are trying to fill the most-progressive lane of the party that they’re splitting that share of the vote evenly. At the same time, there’s plenty of evidence that many rank-and-file Democrats are looking for a pragmatist who can actually win the presidency.
Whee! I cannot wait to get started on this book about the danger socialism poses to the US. The proposal is going out to publishers in a few days.
Some of you fault me for tying economic socialism to cultural progressivism. I agree that in theory, one can have a stronger welfare state without adopting the moral and cultural values of the Social Justice Warriors. But that’s not how the real world works. It is true that people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez focus more on economics than on culture, but they do that because they already assume far-left cultural positions. Neither Sanders nor Ocasio-Cortez has to run in polities where abortion, LGBT rights, racial politics, etc., are contested. There is already a high degree of cultural
heterogeneity homogeneity around these issues within their constituencies.
Ask yourself: would any Democratic presidential primary contender in 2020 stand a ghost of a chance if he or she took a moderate stance on issues pertaining to race, gender (= abortion), or sexuality (= transgender rights)? Be honest. You can’t just wish these things away.
It’s true that the Republicans have a similar problem. Both parties are beholden to extreme partisans in their bases. But President Trump has his base onside. The conventional wisdom in 2016 was that the Republicans had nominated someone so extreme that he couldn’t possibly win. Yet he did. You watch: the Democrats are going to nominate someone so extreme on economics and culture that they’re going to ensure Trump’s re-election.
It is possible, of course, that the Dems could pull a Trump, and nominate some out-of-left-field candidate who manages to pull off a victory anyway, because enough people in the middle are so sick of Trump that they prefer to take a chance on the devil they don’t know. But I don’t see that as likely. In any case, the New York Times might believe that Trump is manufacturing a fake villain in “socialism,” but it’s pretty clear that he’s not.
UPDATE: Reader “EarlyBird” comments:
I agree that the economic left-progressive-“socialists” taking over the Dem Party right now are also on the extreme left of social issues.
But besides the Supreme Court – which I understand is no small thing – how will the Darwinian-libertarian Republicans slow the leftward drift? Yes, the USSC will help protect the erosion of religious rights. That’s very important. But what else?
Are national Republicans somehow going to be able to break the spell of the left’s toxic identity politics? Do they even care? No.
And state Republicans will continue to do well in states where Republicans do well, i.e., deep red ones, so that’s a wash either way.
Simply put, professional conservative politicians are not going to save our culture, but will continue to erode Americans’ faith in a fair capitalism, undermine the middle class and thereby add to the havoc that does to our culture.
They are done even pretending to care about “fiscal restraint,” and have decided to shrink government by bankrupting it by giving away more tax cuts to billionaires.
Guy’s got a point about the cluelessness of standard-grade Republicans. It’s not 1980. The big corporations that they love so much are woke as hell.
UPDATE.2: Robby Soave at Reason explains this better than I have. The reason why you cannot separate economic socialism from cultural leftism is intersectionality. Excerpts:
As I explain my forthcoming book, PANIC ATTACK: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump (pre-order it here), intersectionality is a philosophical framework that has come to completely dominate progressive activist thinking in the 30 years since the sociologist Kimberle Crenshaw first coined it. An intersectional progressive recognizes that racism, and sexism, and homophobia, and transphobia, and age-ism, and classism, and so on, are separate-but-related phenomena. To ignore just one of these sources of oppression is to fail intersectionality; the seriously social-justice minded must treat all of these issues as equally important and confront them en masse.