Juan Williams: Trump gives life to the left

Juan Williams: Trump gives life to the left
© Greg Nash

“Ideas that were fringe are now in the mainstream of the Democratic Party,” Jeff Weaver, who managed Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Health Care: States fight Trump on non-ObamaCare plans | Analysis looks into surprise medical bills | Left hits industry group working against single payer Overnight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate Sen. Sanders blasts Zinke: Wildfires 'have everything to do with climate change' MORE’s (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, told The Washington Post last week.

It’s true.

Check out the once-edgy ideas now being embraced by Democrats:

— Calling for the legalization of marijuana and universal healthcare made John Fetterman an upset winner last week in Pennsylvania’s race for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor.

— Medicare for everyone — universal healthcare — was also a winner for Kara Eastman, a social worker who last week won the Democratic nomination for a House seat in Nebraska. She also wants universal background checks for people buying guns, an idea Democrats typically keep at a distance for fear of antagonizing gun owners.

“I’m tired of hearing Democrats don’t have a backbone…don’t stand for anything,” Eastman said in one political advertisement. “That changes now.”

Yes, and it is changing because of the anti-Trump fury fueling Democrats going into the 2018 midterm elections.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAvenatti on 2020 campaign: 'The truth is my policy issue' Democrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America Lawrence O'Donnell: Secret Service could ‘physically remove’ Trump from White House when he loses in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.) said last week the upcoming midterms would be one “massive uphill climb” for Democrats and added the key to victory would be unapologetically standing up for liberal ideas.

“We can’t climb that hill by ignoring the millions of Americans who are angry and scared about the damage this president and this Republican Party have done to our democracy,” Warren said.

In that spirit, Warren endorsed Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayPoll: Majority of likely voters support consumer bureau mission Election Countdown: Takeaways from too-close-to-call Ohio special election | Trump endorsements cement power but come with risks | GOP leader's race now rated as 'toss-up' | Record numbers of women nominated | Latino candidates get prominent role in 2020 Michigan race shows two parties on different trajectories MORE, who last week won the Democratic nomination for Ohio Governor.

She told voters that Cordray, a low-key candidate who once headed Warren’s brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is a quiet warrior for the working man, standing against Wall Street bankers and the greedy rich.

“They’ve got the money…but there’s a whole lot more of us than there is of them,” Warren said at a Cordray campaign event.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDem mega-donor to spend M on GOTV campaign ahead of midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to New York to shore-up GOP districts Pelosi claims NBC is trying to 'undermine' her potential Speaker bid MORE (D-Calif.) is also flying without fear. An emboldened Pelosi is saying that if Democrats take back the House, she wants revisions to President TrumpDonald John TrumpAl Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' Trump claims tapes of him saying the 'n-word' don't exist Trump wanted to require staffers to get permission before writing books: report MORE’s new tax law.

“Wouldn’t it have been better if we had spent over a trillion dollars on infrastructure” and not “tax breaks for the wealthy,” she recently said.

And there are more “fringe” ideas exciting Democrats.

 — Free community college tuition, an idea Sanders pushed in the 2016 campaign, is gaining ground. With Democrats rallying support, 17 states have recently adopted some form of free higher education and Democrats are talking it up nationally.

— Sanders is now also pushing for a federal government guarantee of a $15 an hour job for all citizens who want one. The idea builds on the push for raising the minimum wage that is now widely backed by Democrats.

Populist Democrats are no longer afraid to call themselves liberals.

According to a March Pew Research Center poll, 46 percent of Democrats now identify themselves as “liberal.” In 1998, that number was just 28 percent.

The surge in Democrats’ passion for liberalism comes as 56 percent of women now say they are Democrats or lean Democrat. That is the highest percentage since 1992. Also according to Pew, a whopping 70 percent of women millennials (women between 22 and 37 years old) now identify as Democrats.

The latest high-profile evidence of the party’s pride in liberalism can be found in the Democratic primary for Governor of New York.

Actress Cynthia Nixon, best known for playing Miranda on HBO’s “Sex and the City,” is making the case that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), has set back progressive causes by working too closely with Republicans and conservative Democrats in the state legislature.

"We're a blue state, we're a proudly Democratic state, but we have a governor in there who governs like a Republican," Nixon told Stephen Colbert last month. "He says he wants to work with the Republicans, but often times it looks more like he works for the Republicans... He's pleasing his big-money donors."

Nixon calls Trump’s election “a real wake-up call," motivating her to run.

"If we don’t like the direction our government is going in, we have to step up and we have to get involved like never before, so that's what I'm doing,” Nixon said.

A Quinnipiac University poll from last week showed Nixon has her work cut out for her. She trails Cuomo 28 percent to 50 percent. 

So here we have a long-shot candidate with no political experience whom most voters know as a celebrity TV star trailing in the polls but saying controversial things that excite the base of the party.

Does this plot sound familiar to anyone?  

Trump has revamped the GOP. It was once the party of free trade, low deficits and support for immigration.

Now it is clear Trump has also changed the Democrats. He has made them so mad they’re finally speaking up.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.