The Democratic Party is Now Two Distinct Political Parties

Hard-line progressive ideology has left no room for moderates.

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Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (center) speaks on the Green New Deal with Senator Ed Markey (right) in front of the Capitol Building in February 2019. (photo: Senate Democrats)

To Everything, There is a Season

Turn, turn, turn.

Political parties don’t last forever. Nothing ever does.

Like all parties, political parties eventually have to end. And usually for the same reasons: The party’s over or the cops come.

If the political parties of history, which have fallen out of fashion and out of the electorate over the years, aren’t compelling enough evidence, consider the modern plight of the Democratic Party.

There are two distinct ideological groups within the Democratic Party today. Trump hatred unites them. But battles and skirmishes between the two- though Democratic Party leadership and the liberal media have tried their utmost to downplay such internal problems- have been on open display for the past three years.

Two words: Primary challenges.

Under former President Barack “The Coalition Builder” Obama, the ideological differences within the Democratic Party weren’t as apparent. If Obama was a little too moderate for more progressive Democrats, the progressiveness of his election itself made up for it.

Once Obama’s two terms were over, however, the Democratic coalition he so painstakingly built through two successful presidential campaigns began to crumble.

The fight over who would ultimately replace Barack Obama resulted in a bitter Democratic primary in 2016. During this bitter primary, heir apparent and 2008 also-ran Hillary Clinton rose to prominence to cinch the nomination.

Readers of the New York Times may have been shocked by the casual admission in a recent article that former DNC head Debbie Wasserman-Shultz rigged the primary against Sen. Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Not because it isn’t true, but because leftward-leaning major media outlets like the New York Times haven’t been willing to admit it. In spite of overwhelming evidence revealed by Wikileaks, most mainstream media networks ignored it.

Bernie Sanders voters, however, have neither ignored nor forgotten it.

The reaction of Bernie Sanders voters to this offhand, throwaway admission buried deep within a New York Times article about the trials and tribulations of the new D.N.C. head must have been the same as for any Republicans reading it: “Oh, are we admitting that now?”

Establishment-leaning Democrats were undoubtably soothed by the subsequent “correction” to the article in question. Sanders fans, less so.

“An earlier version referred imprecisely to the departure of Debbie Wasserman Schultz from the D.N.C. in 2016. She left amid accusations that she helped favor Hillary Clinton in the primary, not because it was rigged.” — New York Times. Correction: Dec. 15, 2019

And therein lies the rub.

The New York Times may find this mealy-mouthed correction more palatable to the average Democrat. But for Sanders supporters, the New York Times had it right the first time. “Berners” feel the word “rigged” is perfectly appropriate.

Progressive Democrats who desperately wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders in 2016 are just as angry with the Democratic Party in 2020 as they are with Donald Trump. And if they aren’t, they should be.

Whether Wasserman-Schultz “rigged” the primary, as the NYT article first stated, or merely “helped” it to favor Clinton, as in the corrected article, the result was the same.

Sanders lost the primary to Hillary Clinton. And Clinton lost the general election to Donald Trump.

And here we all are.

Sanders fans don’t exactly appreciate the fine distinction between a party head “helping” a favored candidate win the primary and a party head “rigging” the primary to help a favored candidate win.

Whether or not Bernie Sanders would have won against Trump, we will never truly know. But that Sanders fans think he would have is what is largely driving progressive hard-liners to abandon the mainstream Democratic Party, at least ideologically.

Bernie Sanders, it should be noted, wasn’t a Democrat until he ran in 2016.

If the Democratic Party establishment cannot be brought in line with new progressive ideology, hard-line progressives will leave the party and form a new one. Hard-line progressives, Berners, hard-core Democratic socialists and young Democrats are not going to mobilize for Joe Biden.

And they most certainly aren’t going to mobilize for Michael Bloomberg, no matter how much he spends on television campaign ads.

The thing is, the Democratic Party as a whole cannot be brought in line ideologically with today’s hard-line progressives.

To be accepted by the Bernie Sanders set these days, a voting Democrat must embrace no less than open borders, the Green New Deal, abolishing I.C.E., abandoning Israel, taxpayer-funded abortion at any time for any reason, involuntary gun confiscations, reparations for a variety of perceived social injustices, federally funded political campaigns, free college and single-payer healthcare.

To be accepted by the progressive hardliners, Democrats must also reject all Republicans, any future prospect of bipartisanship, the concept of biological sex, Democracy itself, the electoral college, personal wealth, single-family dwellings and state’s rights.

The Democratic Party, as it exists today, became powerful in the U.S. because of who it included- which was everyone- not who it excluded. The Democratic Party is participating in its own undoing by shrinking the Democratic “Big Tent” into a much smaller tent where only a handful of the ideologically pure can fit.

There is a very small percentage of voting Democrats who actually believe in all these things. Not perhaps on Twitter, and not perhaps in Hollywood- where there is a large percentage- but in the real world, moderate Democrats far outnumber their more-outspoken counterparts in the liberal progressive counter-culture.

Anyone looking from former Vice President Joe Biden to progressive-left darling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and wondering how they could possibly be in the same political party is right:

Biden and A.O.C. don’t belong in the same political party.

A.O.C.’s Democratic Party questions whether wealthy people, people like Joe Biden, should even be allowed in the Democratic Party. Progressives might be surprised to learn that Democrats have become the party of the wealthy elite, a trend that has been happening for some time now.

Democrats now control 27 of the 30 wealthiest districts in the country, a radical shift from a decade ago. Democrats now share equally with Republicans the 30 poorest, another shift.

Which is why Biden can pretend to embrace every leftward-leaning newfangled fad that comes his way; it rings hollow because it is. Biden’s voting record says otherwise. And sometimes Biden himself says otherwise, giving lip-service to ludicrous sentiments like his team considering a Republican running mate.

Likewise, any attempts by Bernie Sanders or A.O.C. to play for the moderate ground would fall just as flat. Not that either one of them would bother with such play-acting.

Someone trying to have it both ways with no success whatsoever is Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She tries to talk the progressive talk when she is addressing liberal progressives, and walks such statements back when she is challenged by Democratic moderates.

No one- not moderates, progressives, Republicans, or the press- is buying it.

The great impasse, the unavoidable obstacle for Democrats hoping to unseat Trump in 2020, is that people excited to vote for Bernie Sanders will not vote for Biden, for Bloomberg, for Buttigieg, for Klobuchar or anyone else who would tout themselves as a moderate.

Likewise, many desperate to vote for a moderate Democrat, though admittedly not exactly excited about Joe Biden, will not support a hare-brained, hard-line progressive ticket they feel is guaranteed to lose against Trump in the general election.

There is only one solution to this problem, and it is not one that will result in net electoral gains for Democrats. At least not in the short term.

The future of the Democratic Party might be the progressive-hardliners; but the moderates won’t go quietly. Some moderates may find a home in the Republican Party. Some already have.

Whether hard-line progressives in the Democratic Party will abandon Democrats forever if Biden is the nominee remains to be seen. In a Democratic Party with Biden as it’s masthead, progressive hard-liners may find a more appealing home in the Green Party. Or in forming their own.

If Sanders supporters would have formed a Democratic Socialist Party after the DNC nominated Clinton in 2016, they would today perhaps be in a better position.

Spending three years trying in vain to find common cause with moderate Democrats, whom they disdain almost as much as Republicans, has certainly done little good.

The Democratic Party is now two separate political parties- as different from one another as Republicans are from Democrats.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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