How the Left Took Over the Democratic Party

Filed in National by on July 28, 2014

That’s the title of a recent Politico (sorry) long piece that tries to make the case that the activist base of the Democratic Party have taken the party over. It is an interesting article and worth the read. Part of the motivation of this piece seems to be in making the point that Hillary Clinton won’t have as much room to ignore the activist base as other Presidential candidates could. I’m not sure that’s true — largely because the activist base hasn’t been able to translate its agenda to the Democrats in Congress (yes, there are some, but there isn’t as much of a block as could influence White House policy). And because Democrats in Congress aren’t nearly as beholden to their voting base as they are to their check-writing base. But we already knew that I’m a major cynic on that point.

Much of the Pat Buchanan Culture War is lost or on its way to being lost. But the more populist agenda that Americans of both parties seem to favor is largely missing from the day to day work of Democrats in power. There’s lots of good rhetoric, but not much taken up in terms of legislation that takes on the rebalancing of power that needs to happen between corporations and flesh and blood people. Heck, I don’t even hear much criticism of the Republicans who have been ground zero of making sure that Congress does not work, and I wonder how Dems will make their case without making sure that folks know just how destructive the GOP has been. Because if you care about a more populist agenda, you need a Congress that will address that. The author of this piece defines a left-populist agenda as:

These progressive forces are coalescing around a populist-inspired desire to combat income inequality and rein in large financial institutions, as well as an interest in focusing on priorities at home rather than abroad. It’s difficult, in this environment, to imagine a viable Democratic presidential candidate who isn’t willing to take clear positions on issues like increasing the minimum wage, securing comprehensive immigration reform, supporting women’s health and their reproductive rights, addressing climate change and eliminating or at least curtailing fracking.

That’s a populist agenda that gets alot of support (with a couple of exceptions) on both sides of the aisle. Still, I see plenty of Dems who are skating by on their support for cultural freedoms but who don’t say much (and certainly don’t vote for) a more populist agenda. Certainly the number of legislators that sound like Elizabeth Warren aren’t increasing and don’t seem to be on a path to increasing anytime soon. So as long as that is the case, how can you make the case that the left has taken over the Democratic Party?

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"You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas." -Shirley Chisholm

Comments (5)

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  1. Jason330 says:

    This is simply concern trolling on the part of Politico. They are hoping that HRC will be made to feel a little uncomfortable about supporting big banks. I doubt she’ll break a sweat.

    The fact that most elected Democrats are in the bag for the big check writers really has turned our politics into a pathetic charade. There is a lot of Sturm und Drang from both sides around social issues, and very little appetite for Dems to take “clear positions on issues like” sensible taxation, increasing the minimum wage, fracking, or income inequality.

  2. Steve Newton says:

    If Leftist activists take over the national Democratic Party, will the one in Delaware have to change its name?

  3. cassandra_m says:

    LOL, Steve. There are portions of it that should change its name now.

  4. cassandra m says:

    This probably is worth its own post, but this is the kind of thing that Democrats really ought to be thinking of. This guy came to understand that the GOP was specifically disinterested in helping poor and working poor people like he was, but that they were using folks like him (and their own shame at being poor) to line their own pockets. Winning the Politics of Aspiration is about making sure the aspirational can make their own path — and getting the corporations and other wealthy people out of their way.

  5. stan merriman says:

    I wish it were so, but it ain’t. The heart of the Populist agenda is economic justice, which would include massive reforms at both the state and federal level in consumer protections, restraint and regulation of the totally out of control corporate sphere (or should I say they are entirely in control including in the party?) and massive adjustment of our taxation policy to make corporations pay more than their fair share. State party committees, in the main and the DNC need to be totally flushed out and replaced by populists; right now they are still structured to address ethnic and social issues of representation and injustice for specific interests, not economic justice for all.
    As one who created a huge populist caucus, ousted an intransigent state party chair without a majority in the party and shook their rafters for about 5 years until new populist leadership lost sight of the mission, I can tell you that at least in that venue (Texas) there was a wide disparity between liberalism in the party and populism. Soft, weak knee liberalism prevails as it seems to everywhere in the Democratic Party. Just look at the DNC or for that matter, the Delaware Democratic Party platforms.
    Real populism would bust up the big banks, hire a consumer lawyer, not a corporate lawyer to run the justice department, bust up monopolies like the cable industry, indict corporate wrong doers, bust up media conglomorates and turn down mergers impeding competition, not to mention making corporate tax avoiders pay mightily and treat polluters as the criminals they are.