It’s amazing, and sad, that we got to a place where providing affordable health care coverage to Americans is extremely controversial. Republicans evoke American’s evolution into a European-style socialist dystopia (if only), and Democrats are running scared.
The defeat of Democrat Alex Sink in the special election in Florida’s 13th congressional district is going to inspire a lot of gloating and painstaking analysis, largely because her (tepid) support of Obamacare was a major point of attack for her Republican opponent. John Cassidy at The New Yorker offers a solution that I wholeheartedly support:
Joan Walsh writes in Salon this week that pundits and hopeful right-wingers trying to drum up drama are wrong in thinking there’s a civil war among Democrats. She goes after centrists who claim the party is threatened by “dead end” populism.
Personally, I think it’s really not helpful for Democrats to caricature other Democrats as selling “hate” if they point to the disproportionate income, wealth and political power currently enjoyed by the 1 percent. Hell, even some 1 percenters think the pendulum has swung too far. (Not crazy sore winners like Tom Perkins, of course.)
I debated Third Way’s Matt Bennett about this topic on “Hardball.” It was a friendly, civil debate; you can watch at the end of this post. But I was struck by a couple of things. Bennett — correctly, I think — insisted candidates and parties win when they have a vision for the future. And yet he – like his centrist comrades in the Balz-Rucker piece – continue to push Third Way’s 30-year-old Democratic Leadership Council approach, on a country that’s crying out for new ideas. It’s Third Way that’s looking backward, not progressives.
The attitude Walsh calls out is epitomized by a tone deaf op-ed by Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler in the Wall Street Journal:
If you talk to leading progressives these days, you’ll be sure to hear this message: The Democratic Party should embrace the economic populism of New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Such economic populism, they argue, should be the guiding star for Democrats heading into 2016. Nothing would be more disastrous for Democrats.
While New Yorkers think of their city as the center of the universe, the last time its mayor won a race for governor or senator—let alone president—was 1869. For the past 144 years, what has happened in the Big Apple stayed in the Big Apple. Some liberals believe Sen. Warren would be the Democratic Party’s strongest presidential candidate in 2016. But what works in midnight-blue Massachusetts—a state that has had a Republican senator for a total of 152 weeks since 1979—hasn’t sold on a national level since 1960.
This debate surfaces eternal frustrations I have with the Democratic Party and people who would pull it to the center. It’s often repeated that the Democratic Party isn’t nearly as liberal as Republicans are conservative (though a recent Gallup poll showed liberal identification at it highest ever). But many of the policies that are painted with the liberal brush are hardly fringe.