George Boardman: Is the Democratic Party about to experience its Tea Party moment?
Observations from the center stripe: Statuary edition
AM I the only person who thinks the proposed statue of Senator Aaron and Ellen Sargent is boring? … I DON’T think the senator should be judged by today’s standards. He was a man of his times and should be judged accordingly … IT LOOKS like it’s going to be hot this week, portending lower attendance at the Nevada County Fair … HEALTH ALERT: Yuba River Charter School is among the state leaders when it comes to students who are exempt from getting vaccinated. According to state figures, only 48 percent of entering kindergarten students will have the recommended shots …
Loyal Republicans throughout America fervently hope — heck, some of them are even praying — the Democratic Party commits political suicide in November by embracing the progressive faction of its party.
Part of this is a reflection of the attitude prevalent on both sides of the political divide that there is no such thing as a moderate in the other party, and part of it is a willingness to believe media speculation that the Democratic establishment is about to be toppled by insurgents from the Democratic Socialists of America.
Many Republicans hope this is true because of concern the party will lose control of at least one house of Congress in the mid-term elections, and are grasping at any thought that says that won’t happen. But the Republicans have become the Donald Trump Party, and he has been unable to attract much support beyond his core backers. All those people who stayed home in 2016? They’re voting this time.
So when Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a former bartender who ran under the banner of DSA, ousted Democratic big whig Joe Crowley in a party primary in New York, conservatives reacted with a mixture of fear and glee.
Murdoch media immediately fanned the flames of fear. The New York Post greeted her win with the headline “RED ALERT” and Fox News talking head Sean Hannity called her “downright scary.” Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro called her a member of the “howling at the moon” segment of the Democratic Party.
Even New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, perhaps the most articulate spokesman of the any-conservative-but-Trump crowd, couldn’t contain himself, writing that “Hugo Chavez was also a democratic socialist,” and people like Ocasio-Cortez will be “political hemlock for the Democratic Party.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who has the enthusiastic support of Senator Bernie Sanders and his crowd, defines her politics as a struggle for “social, economic and racial dignity.” To achieve that Nirvana, she supports, among other things, Medicare-for-all, free college tuition, abolition of ICE, and sanctuary cities, and views with skepticism the capitalist system that made America the richest nation on earth.
Some people who would like to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2020 are rushing to embrace part of Ocasio-Cortez’s platform, particularly Medicare-for-all and abolition of ICE, as they seek favor with the more radical elements of the party’s base. That drew a rebuke from Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a genuine moderate.
“Some members of my party, I fear, are instead taking the easy road, and proposing ideas that might sound great in a tweet, like free college and free health care,” Coons said in a speech last month to New Democracy, a centrist Democratic group. “If the next two years is just a race to offer increasingly unrealistic proposals, to rally just those who are already with us, our strongest supporters, it’ll be difficult for us to make a credible case we should be allowed to govern again.”
I hate to break the news to Republicans, but the evidence to date suggests that most Democrats are with Coons.
While Ocasio-Cortez has been getting plenty of media attention, establishment Democrats have been winning more party primaries than progressives have. Except for Ocasio-Cortez, there have been no earth-shattering upsets to rival those of the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party in 2010.
Just 22 percent of self-defined progressives have won Democratic primaries, according to an analysis of the Brookings Institution, and most of those victories have been in Congressional districts Democrats have little or no chance of winning in November. Only two establishment candidates have lost to self-proclaimed progressives in districts the Democrats have targeted as swing-districts. That’s a far cry from the impact tea baggers had eight years ago.
Then there’s the Democratic Socialists of America, a dues paying outfit with less than 50,000 members nationwide. That would win you an election in Nevada County, but not much else in this country.
That doesn’t mean progressives haven’t made some inroads in the Democratic Party. Take, for example, the zanies who are running the California Democratic Party. The state party’s executive board handed its endorsement for U.S. Senate to state Senator Kevin de Leon. Incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein received just 7 percent of the ballots.
Feinstein’s sin is that she has a record of centrist pragmatism during her 25 years in the U.S. Senate, apparently too wishy-washy for younger activists in the party who want nothing less than total resistance to the Trump agenda. Any Democrat who gets the endorsement of the California Farm Bureau has to be viewed with suspicion.
On the other hand, de Leon is the author of California’s sanctuary-state legislation, backs a single-payer health system, and has sponsored a number of bills increasing renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions in the state. “We have presented Californians with the first real alternative to the worn-out Washington playbook in a quarter century,” he said.
But California Democrats aren’t rushing to the ramparts. Feinstein finished first by 2.1 million votes in the June primary and earned 70 percent of the party’s vote. Looked at another way, she got 44 percent of votes cast in the primary vs. de Leon’s 12 percent. The latest polls show her winning easily in November.
So, don’t expect the Democratic Party to experience its own Tea Party-type revolution in the next two years and become the socialists a lot of conservatives think they are anyway. I don’t think this country wants a left-wing Donald Trump.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at email@example.com.
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