A Step Forward or a Step Left?

There’s an interesting article on Buzzfeed (I know, I know) about some of the changes going on in the Democratic Party. Ben Smith sums up a big recent change:

I know, it’s been a distracting month. So you’re forgiven if you missed the big development on the Democratic Party policy front: the call for “a large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment.” That plan, titled “A Marshall Plan for America,” came not from Bernie Sanders but from the Center for American Progress, the Clintonite Washington think tank John Podesta led. The proposal breaks in tone and substance with the Clinton–Obama focus on an economy led and dominated by the private sector.

There’s a lot to unpack here, some good, some bad. First, the good. It seems the dual barrel blast of Sanders and Trump has had the effect of finally making Democratic leadership acknowledge that the economic picture may not be as rosey for most Americans as it is for John Podesta and the Clintons. As we’ve noted previously, the defining issue of the 21st Century is likely to be massive unemployment, particularly among both the young and the less educated. And, as we’ve also recently noted, it’s only going to continue to get worse.

Now, the solution isn’t all sunshine here. It’s unsure if large scale public employment and infrastructure improvement is actually the fix, let alone a sustainable way to structure a society. There’s also the problem that, knowing the Democratic Party, this will probably be held in hoc to special interests, unions, and random identity politics and political correctness. Moreover, Democratic promises are always somewhat hollow because (a) they can’t win and (b) when they do, they don’t tend to deliver. Trump didn’t invent telling voters he’d lift them out of poverty and then not deliver. That’s straight out of the Democratic Party urban politics playbook.

But still, despite all those caveats, it’s a very positive step that Dems are acknowledging this problem and, if we’re lucky, will lead to them talking about this a lot more.

The downside is that this may signal more of a move to the left by the Democratic Party. We don’t have a lot of data points to go off, but one of our commitments here is to be like an early warning system for political shifts. We’ll have more information after the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial primaries, both of which feature establishment Dems against Bernie Dems. We have seen the Philadelphia District Attorney’s race, where a very left-wing, Soros-backed candidate won quite handily. As this Slate piece (I know, I know, again) describes Larry Krasner, the likely next Philadelphia D.A.:

A progressive firebrand who has defended Black Lives Matter protesters and Occupy Wall Street activists pro bono, Krasner has gone to court more times to sue Philly cops for civil right abuses (75) than he has to prosecute a crime (0). He has described the office he intends to run as “systemically racist.”

Oh, wow. That’s not what most D.A.s sound like. But, as the Slate piece goes on to say, there’s a lot of reasons this happened, most notably how much he was able to outspend the rest of his field. But the really interesting piece of information from this is that he did not beat some centrist, establishment candidate. Krasner beat a field that was mainly made up of candidates positioning themselves as left-wing candidates.

It should be noted that I took a clinical from, and am quite fond of, one of Mr. Krasner’s opponent. My hope is that this has not influenced my writing about him.

It can’t be said enough but there’s no evidence that what harmed the Democrats in 2016 (or 2014 or 2010) is that they weren’t leftist enough. There’s certainly some slight evidence that being out of touch on the economy has hurt them, but it’s likely that’s more of a style issue than a substance issue. If this latest move by the Democratic Party is a style move, then I applaud it. If it’s moving to the left, then I’m sure the RNC applauds it.




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