For both parties, the 2016 presidential primary has proven unusual in more ways than one. There have been more candidates than ever before, more outsiders leading the pack, more focus on personalities than issues and, for the first time, a contest on both sides over who’s the real deal.
That’s not so unusual among Republican candidates. They’ve tangled in the past over which one is the true conservative, and they’re doing so again. But this year, Democrats are also at it: Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonCoup D’état? First the FBI, Now the intelligence community Obama should pardon Snowden as well as Manning Trump could mean new momentum for drug imports MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive areas where Trump and Dems could make a deal Trump could mean new momentum for drug imports Senate Democrats brace for Trump era MORE arguing over which one is the true progressive.
Which one is more progressive? Sanders wins that argument, hands down. He’s the most liberal member of the Senate. He’s been endorsed by Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chairmen of the House Progressive Caucus. True, he voted against the Brady Bill on gun control, but — as he points out at every campaign event — his entire career has been spent fighting for single-payer healthcare, a living wage, expanding Social Security, breaking up the big banks, supporting labor unions and other planks of the progressive agenda.
But Clinton has progressive bragging rights, too. She’s supported by liberal Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerFeinstein to hold campaign fundraisers, a hint she'll run again Becerra formally nominated for Calif. attorney general 10 freshmen to watch in the new Congress MORE (D-Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharTrump could mean new momentum for drug imports Sanders to roll out bill letting Medicare negotiate drug prices WHIP LIST: How many Dems will back Sessions? MORE (D-Minn.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownSenate Democrats brace for Trump era Senators introduce dueling miners bills Overnight Finance: Price puts stock trading law in spotlight | Lingering questions on Trump biz plan | Sanders, Education pick tangle over college costs MORE (D-Ohio), among others. True, she voted for the Iraq War in 2002, she originally supported both the Keystone oil pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and she still supports the death penalty. But she also has a long history of fighting for progressive causes, from her work with the Children’s Defense Fund to her leadership in the fight for universal healthcare as first lady to her championing of women’s rights worldwide.
So, in a sense, this is a meaningless debate. The truth is, to varying degrees, Sanders and Clinton are both progressives. But, at the same time, it’s an important exercise for what it says about the Democratic Party.
For years, progressives fought unsuccessfully against the defense hawks, centrists and conservative Democrats who ruled the party. Now that’s changed. Today, few argue the party has to be more “in the middle.” Instead, the two Democratic candidates for president are arguing over which one is further to the left.
This bodes well for November, because the progressive agenda of combating income inequality, raising the minimum wage, delivering pay equity for women, creating jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, cracking down on Wall Street and embracing renewable energy is supported by the vast majority of the American people — and offers a stark contrast to the ugly infighting among Republican candidates. Progressives have won the day!
Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down.”