Pessimism within the Democratic Party, particularly those who identify as moderate or conservative, impedes actual achievement because they assume change can only happen incrementally.
By David Todd McCarty | Tuesday, August 20, 2019
The Democratic Party does not represent one idea of what success looks like, but a whole range of ideas from what is preferable to what is possible. In the wake of the 2016 election, many Democrats believe that our main concern is to choose a candidate who can beat Donald Trump, even if it’s not their favorite candidate.
There is a general feeling of malaise that runs throughout the party as we watch Donald Trump dismantle several decades of progress in all matters of life in America. He has attacked anything and everything, often just because it will make Liberals squirm. If it will bother the Democrats, Trump and his cronies are all for it. We’re worrying about rising tides and they’re poking holes in the ship.
But to give up on big liberal ideas in favor of a moderate candidate you think can appeal to the center is why we lost in 2016 in the first place. This isn’t a rehash of Hillary versus Bernie, but we ended up with an establishment candidate that felt forced on us by the political donor class and the mainstream media, instead of the more liberal candidate that actually had more cross party appeal, and we lost to a game show host who wanted to stick it to elitist liberals.
So now, Democrats who already identify as conservative or moderate, are gun shy about the prospect of America’s appetite for electing a woman, or for embracing bold ideas.
“Let’s all calm down and take a deep breath,” the seem to say. “We don’t need radical change. We just need a normal, responsible adult to get us back to the way things used to be.”
Change can be frightening, regardless of how people say they feel about it. We are ingrained to follow the status quo for self preservation, and are almost always more comfortable with the devil we know, than the savior we desire.
As a pluralistic political party, we find value in compromise and the melding of competing ideas. There are those in the party who think we need to reunite the country with messages and candidates that appeal to those who voted for Trump in 2016. The Obama-Trump voters who voted for Obama in 2012 and for Trump in 2016; so-called independents who can be swayed if only the party doesn’t veer to much to the Left. Or so the argument goes.
The current political environment in America is not one of competing ideological ideas. We are in a situation where we have been segregated by opposing identities. We can never meet in the middle because it has become a zero-sum game where there can be only winners or losers. Either your side wins, or your side loses. It’s binary.
But unlike Republicans, who were pushed hard to the Right by Tea Party activists, a large portion of the Democratic base, mostly moderates and conservatives believe that moving to the Left to combat the Right will result in widespread losses.
There is no evidence to suggest that a female candidate can’t win a race against a male candidate, all other things being equal. In fact, studies have shown that female candidates perform nearly identically to male candidates. But that is not to dismiss the reality of sexism in America, especially when it comes to political candidates.
The mere feeling that a white male candidate has a broader appeal in a general election takes into account our history of both sexism as well as racism in America. This is most fervently seen in evidence with southern black voters who don’t trust white liberal America to vote for a woman or person of color. They have determined that it might be safer to nominate a more moderate candidate they feel will be more palatable to white America, than by nominating a more activist candidate who appeals to more of their issues.
While it’s not completely unfounded fear, it is fear nonetheless, and an obstacle to realizing real change in America for the better. Settling for a safe candidate is anything but safe.
Without large structural changes, the Republicans will continue to dismantle whatever shred of democracy we have left in this country. They are moving the goal posts in order to secure lasting power in a future where they are the minority. This is a calculated move and has nothing to do with democracy. It’s a power grab.
If Democrats choose moderate candidates who offer to reach across the aisle, they will continue to get poked in the eye by Republicans who have no desire to compromise their positions in the least. The Republican base likes nothing more than to revel in the misery of the Democratic Party, even if it means they themselves are hurt by it. This is why Trump is their leader.
Democrats need to elect real leaders worthy of vision and courage, that can lead a diverse coalition of interests towards a better tomorrow. They need to make tough decisions that aren’t always the most popular. You can’t change a country through consensus. Sometimes you need leadership.
If we lose, it won’t be because we dreamed too grandly, it will be because we thought too small. If you think Trump is unstoppable, he probably will be. If you believe the arc of history bends toward justice, you have to fight for things you believe in, not just in things you think you can win right now.