Press: Democrats leaning too far left?

Press: Democrats leaning too far left?
© iStock

If you believe most political commentators, it’s the biggest threat to the Democratic Party today: progressives pushing the party too far to the left. The debate even made it to Sunday’s New York Times under the headline “Democrats Brace As Storm Brews Far To Their Left.”

By espousing issues like Medicare for all, establishment Democrats argue, progressive organizations and candidates — inspired by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersObama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Americans have a choice: Socialized medicine or health care freedom Ocasio-Cortez says Democrats must focus on winning White House for Biden MORE (I-Vt.), 74, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28 — are forcing Democrats so far to the left they will alienate core Democratic and swing voters in the midterm elections and prevent Democrats from taking back the House and Senate.

No doubt, hide-bound Democrats who make that argument are passionate and determined. But they are also dead wrong. Today’s progressives are not destroying the Democratic Party, they’re saving the party from irrelevancy. As Democratic National Committee   (DNC) Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE told me on my program, Ocasio-Cortez is not a threat to the party, “she represents the future of the Democratic Party.”


Two important clarifications. First, what issues are most progressive candidates — even self-identified “democratic socialists,” like Ocasio-Cortez — running on? It’s a progressive agenda that includes Medicare for all, tuition-free college, sentencing reform, ending private prisons, addressing climate change and reforming the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

That’s hardly an extreme “socialist” agenda. That’s basically the same list of issues Sanders campaigned on in the 2016 Democratic primary, and on which he won 21 primaries, over 13 million votes and 1,876 delegates and raised $232 million from 8 million small contributors.

Second important point: Progressives are not insisting that the Democratic Party field progressive candidates exclusively. In more moderate states or congressional districts, they welcome centrist candidates like Pennsylvania’s Conor Lamb and Arkansas’s Doug Jones. They also support red-state incumbents like Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears Fox's Bongino, MSNBC's McCaskill trade blows over Trump ride: 'You epic piece of garbage' MORE and Montana Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  Interior says Pendley to remain at BLM despite 'dramatic tweets' from Democrats Overnight Energy: Barrett punts on climate, oil industry recusals | Ex-EPA official claims retaliation in lawsuit | Dems seek to uphold ruling ousting Pendley MORE. The most important rule is to field a candidate who fits the district and can win.

Given those important clarifications, progressives are making two powerful arguments — and rightfully so. One, that progressives can win in many more states and congressional districts than establishment Democrats believe. Witness the stunning upset of top Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York. And not just in New York, Massachusetts, California and Oregon. But also in Iowa, Kansas and Georgia. Two, that, nationwide, the Democratic Party must either adopt a progressive agenda or soon become, like the California Republican Party already is, virtually nonexistent. 

The truth is, despite the fears of mainstream Democrats, progressives have already won that argument. Although she’s received the most media attention, Ocasio-Cortez is not the only progressive candidate to shake up the establishment. Among others, she joins Nebraska’s Kara Eastman and New York’s Dana Balter, both of whom knocked off the Demoratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) hand-picked candidates — and Maryland’s Ben Jealous, who won that state’s Democratic primary for governor with the endorsement of Bernie Sanders alone. Nationwide, since January 2017, 43 state legislative seats have flipped from red to blue in states as red as Iowa, Florida and Oklahoma.

Take a look. Where’s the political energy and excitement today? It’s all on the left. And it’s all grass-roots inspired. It’s led, not by the DNC, DCCC, or Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, but by new progressive organizations like Our Revolution, Run for Something, Indivisible, EMILY’s List, Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Swing Left. Together, they’ve recruited more Democrats to run for office than ever before. They are overwhelmingly young, female and people of color. They are running under the progressive banner. And they are winning.

The establishment Democratic Party is dying. The new, progressive Democratic Party is taking over. 

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”