Will the Left Go Too Far?


If you gauge the climate inside the Democratic Party merely by which candidates won its 2018 primaries, you might think reports of its leftward lurch are exaggerated. Despite the hoopla about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s and Ayanna Pressley’s upset victories in congressional races in New York and Massachusetts, not a single incumbent Democratic governor or senator lost a primary to a left-leaning challenger.

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But who wins an election is often less important than who sets the agenda. And ideologically, the Democratic Party has veered so sharply that “establishment” or “centrist” Democrats now frequently support larger expansions of government, and more vehemently scorn Big Business and Big Finance, than most liberal Democrats did a few years ago. In 2016, Hillary Clinton said a single-payer health-care system “will never, ever come to pass.” In 2017, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, by some measures the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, said the idea “should be explored.” During the 2013–14 election cycle, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey received more money from Wall Street than any other member of Congress. This February, he announced that he would no longer accept donations from corporate political-action committees.

For the first time in more than 40 years, the left is shaping the Democratic Party’s identity. At a time when the terms liberal, progressive, and leftist are often used interchangeably, it’s worth clarifying what these terms mean. In America, what distinguishes leftists from liberals and progressives—as well as conservatives—is their commitment to radical equality. Leftists are more likely than liberals to argue that economic inequality renders America’s constitutional liberties hollow. They’re more likely to look abroad—to the Soviet Union or Cuba in past eras, and to Scandinavia today—for alternatives to America’s political and economic models. They’re more skeptical of credentialed experts who define the limits of acceptable change. And, perhaps most important, they’re more willing to challenge entrenched norms of fair play to forge a more equal country.

By this definition, the left has rarely wielded much influence inside the Democratic Party. Only twice before has it secured enough power to compel Democrats to co-opt its ideas. In both cases—in the mid-1930s and the mid-1960s—the left gained that power through mass movements that threatened public order. To maintain that order, and forestall more radical alternatives, Democrats passed laws that made America markedly more equal. But the …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics

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