Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Two Line Struggle in the Democratic Party

As the Biden administration unfolds, it is becoming ever more apparent that the Democratic Party has a choice to make about its future direction. There are basically two directions on offer which are nicely summed up by George Packer in an Atlantic piece on the civics education controversy:
"The early months of the Biden presidency have revealed a conflict between two approaches to policy. One is liberal and universalist, the other progressive and particularist. One pursues equality through programs that include as many Americans as possible; the other targets groups, sometimes narrowly defined ones, in the name of equity. One minimizes cultural flashpoints; the other heightens them. One tries to weaken the Republican opposition with broadly popular ideas; the other, pushed by activists, draws conservatives into battles that intensify polarization. One has a chance to build a governing majority; the other risks consigning the Democratic Party to the dismal fate of the British Labour Party."
That is indeed the choice, as is becoming increasingly obvious even to some Democrats associated with the party's more progressive wing such as Ro Khanna, a leading member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. From a piece by Gerald Seib on Democratic challenges in moving their agenda:
"Democrats are in the midst of a push to enact a $6 trillion economic stimulus, infrastructure and jobs-creation agenda that would change the relationship between government and the economy, while also pushing progressive ideas on social issues. The risk is that Democrats are overplaying their hand....
Conversations with a variety of Democrats and public-opinion watchers suggest that Democrats are quite comfortable with the size and scope of their economic agenda, which they believe matches the public’s thirst for a new and vigorous start after the coronavirus pandemic. They are more worried on the cultural front, where their progressive wing is pushing the party to places on social issues where the loyalty of moderate voters will be strained.
“I think we’ve won the argument with many Americans that we need more investment in the American people,” Rep. Ro Khanna [says] “Where the Democrats, candidly, I think, get into trouble is conveying that we believe in markets, conveying that we believe the American experiment is an extraordinary one, that we love our founding and our Constitution and that we have an aspirational vision of American patriotism, conveying that we do believe in borders (and) conveying that we believe in law enforcement.”
That is correct. And if the Democrats wish to convey those beliefs and build a true governing majority, they will have to decide which of the two roads Packer mentioned they are going to go down.

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