The Little Tent Democrats

Who belongs under the tent of the new progressive Democrats?

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaking with attendees at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People hosted by the Center for the American Progress Action Fund and the SEIU at the Enclave in Las Vegas, Nevada. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Democrats running for President are struggling to stay on message. Wait, scratch that: Democrats are in a constant, nebulous struggle to define the message on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.

There have been so many flips and flaps, reflips and retractions it feels like someone should be getting a gaffe bingo soon. Odds on Joe Biden.

Being against Trump, which they all certainly are, is not necessarily a political platform in and of itself. That is, unless you are billionaire and erstwhile Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer, who announced his presidential candidacy after the round of recent Democratic debates. The impeachment and prosecution of Donald Trump is one of Steyer’s main platforms.

Steyer is right in a way: That Democrats are morally obligated to topple Trump for the sake of humanity seems to be the best and most pervasive argument of the progressive left. Unfortunately for the American taxpayer and wage-earner, it is becoming apparent that getting rid of Trump is going to cost them. Big time.

Voters are beginning to suspect that replacing Trump with any one of the Democrats currently running in the Democratic primary will not improve matters much in Washington, and might hurt Main Street.

Yes, Virginia: Even in the days of Amazon, Americans still care about Main Street.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has a plan for everything. Unfortunately for the cash-strapped in the short-term, these plans involve a complete overhaul of the U.S. economy, which is working, as in really working, for a wider and wider swath of the American public and Main Streets across the country.

As the U.S. approaches full employment, there isn’t much that strikes fear into the faint of heart, or those millions of people living paycheck to paycheck, like the words “complete economic overhaul”.

The message Warren and her fellow Democratic would-be nominees are sending voters is ringing increasingly hollow across the electorate.

The Democratic message is somewhat complicated by the robust performance of the U.S. economy, which continues to outperform expectations in spite of a disappointing jobs report in May. June’s rebounding numbers put a quick end to rumblings about the beginning of the end.

The stock market is strong and getting stronger. U.S. businesses are responding well to the pro-business policies of the Trump administration. Marginalized demographic groups are being employed at historic levels. Wages are gaining, most taxpayers saw tax savings last year.

Warren may be full of grand plans about changing the status quo, but neither she nor her Democratic fellows can offer any ideas about how to keep wage gains and full employment going. A bird in the hand may prove more valuable to economically vulnerable voters than two campaign promises in the bush.

Sen. Kamala Harris is having problems of her own. Her detractors, especially in communities of color, are quick to criticize her record as an Oakland prosecutor with hashtags like “#KamalaisaCop.”

Perversely, these voters are softer on former Vice President Joe Biden, whose support of the three strikes law, hard line on criminal justice, and support for the War on Drugs led directly to the incarceration of millions. None more so than from impoverished African American communities.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, though it got little attention in the wake of his public flaying by Sen. Kamala Harris herself, was quick to point out that he, unlike Harris, had never become a prosecutor.

In addition to ignoring the economy, Democrats running for president in 2020 are drawing a hard line in the sand over abortion rights.

All the top Democratic contenders claim that all Democrats must support what they deem “reproductive rights”. Reproductive rights in modern progressive-speak means any woman’s right to a federally funded abortion for any reason, up to and including the third trimester of pregnancy.

This puts pro-life Democrats in an untenable position. Abortion in the Democratic party has abruptly gone from the “Safe, legal, and rare” days of the Bill Clinton administration to the “Anytime, for any reason, and free” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s current congressional caucus.

Democrats, Joe Biden among them, may claim that their race to the far left on abortion rights is in response to an unprecedented assault on reproductive rights by the Trump administration, state Republicans emboldened by the Trump administration, and deeply misguided Democrats hoodwinked by the Trump administration.

But in reality, Democrats in New York and Pennsylvania pushed first, not only passing abortion laws granting access well into the third-trimester, which a majority of U.S. voters do not support, but in celebrating such with a lighting up of the Empire State Building. New York’s newly passed law allows abortion until the moment of birth.

Support for abortion may be strong in the early stages of pregnancy. But only a tiny percentage of voters support abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy unless the life of the mother is in danger.

There is a kind of groupthink forming on the progressive left. Some have called it the new Democratic purity test. Instead of a big tent that accepts everyone, Democrats have become the little tent party that only accepts people who meet a certain criteria.

The fact that the new criteria for Democratic purity has nothing to do with the way a person looks isn’t as big of a distinction as the Democrats would like to believe. In the new progressive left you can look any way you like.

But you are only allowed to think one way.

Voters now considering whether or not they can ever belong under the little tent of the new progressive Democrats are facing a narrowing field of Democratic contenders juxtaposed against their own, and their community’s, economic success under the Trump administration.

Meanwhile Donald Trump is busily undermining Democratic support in key swing states by showing, at least with his economic policies anyway, that the Republican’s ever-expanding tent is big enough for far more people than the Democratic Party’s shrinking tent.

And Democrats aren’t exactly distinguishing themselves, not exactly. Unless Marianne Williamson is a place holder for Oprah Winfrey, 2020 Democrats are in deep trouble.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)



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