Donkey and Elephant (The Path Forward)

Opinion writer Zach Freeman discusses intra-party fighting within the Democratic Party and why they shouldn’t blame progressives if they want to succeed.

A prominent Democratic Party victory was supposed to be a shoo-in in 2020. But as we all know, Democrats ended up losing seats in the House and remain a minority in the Senate. Despite beating Trump, Democrat’s still managed to live up to their party’s symbol by making asses of themselves on election week.

These unexpected failures should have been the party’s chance to look over their losses and strategize to prevent it from happening again. Instead, the establishment Democrats decided to blame their more progressive party members. Igniting intra-party conflict in a time when you can barely beat your opponents only serves to dump salt into fresh wounds. It’s especially damaging when those pointing fingers have no one to point at but themselves.

Twenty of the 28 candidates endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America won their seats along with eight of their 11 ballot measures. One such candidate, Cori Bush — who was once homeless and living out of her car — is now the newest member of ”The Squad.” The Progressive Caucus, Our Revolution and Justice Democrats gained much more than they lost this election. They have even held their success in swing seats. Progressive Katie Porter flipped the Republican stronghold of Orange County in 2018 and kept her office in last week’s election.

Moderates lost their seats, not progressives.

Please don’t take this article as a Democrat trying to save their party. Believe it or not, I didn’t even vote for Joe Biden. I had every intention of doing so. I clicked Biden/Harris on the ballot machine, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it when reviewing my choices before casting my vote. Instead, I voted for Howie Hawkins. I know the liberals reading this probably think I’m an idiot. Maybe they’re right. Strategically, Biden was the only option to get Trump out of office. I always had strong reservations about voting for Biden, and at that moment, my impulsiveness won out. Now that I’ve mended our fractured political climate by uniting liberals and conservatives in their hatred for me (you’re welcome) let’s get back to the issue.

The point of this anecdote is that by presenting themselves as just the lesser of two evils, Democrats will steadily lose votes. More than half of Biden voters only supported him to get Trump out of office. In smaller races, the House and Senate, there isn’t the same kind of vitriol against Democratic opposition for uninspiring candidates to win like this.

Critics sometimes describe the Democratic Party as being made up of coastal elites. I think this view isn’t unfounded, but to claim that the Republican Party isn’t also elitist is ridiculous. Twenty-eight of America’s 50 wealthiest families mainly donate to the Republican Party, seven to Democrats and 15 to both parties. The majority of senators and congresspeople are millionaires, even before taking office.

When it comes down to it, lower and middle-class people across parties have much more in common with each other than we do the people who represent us. This is especially true on specific, key issues. Seventy percent of Americans are in favor of government-run healthcare. Florida went red while also passing a $15 minimum wage. Arizona — a solidly red state until this year — passed a Sanders/Warren style wealth tax. In 2018, deep-red Missouri voters said no to an anti-union “right to work” proposition. Late that year, Missourians voted to legalize medical marijuana, and raise the minimum wage while also voting out their centrist Democrat senator, Claire McCaskill. The list goes on.

Ballot measures around the country show us that working-class people vote for working-class interests. My generation stands to be among the first in our history to have a less prosperous life than my parent’s generation. This dilemma creates little appeal in voting for candidates who cannot relate or do not care about our interests.

Bernie Sanders almost won Texas in the Democratic primaries, despite going against the combined weight of all other candidates behind Biden. Sanders was, in fact, the front-runner until days before the primary. Bernie had massive Latino support, which Biden and many other Dems faltered on. In the Texas general election, Biden came within six percent of the vote. Suppose Sanders had been the Democratic nominee instead. In that case, believe that he would have won Texas and reinvigorated much of the support Democrats had lost.

These may sound like the dreams of a salty Bernie supporter (and they are) but you have to recognize that times are changing rapidly. Old strategies are not working like they used to. BLM protests, which caused a spike in Democratic voter registration, are not to blame. Neither are progressive candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose biggest flaw is being formerly working-class. If establishment Dems wrongfully accuse their party’s progressive wing, then they are doomed to continue hemorrhaging support in the future. The party of the jackass needs to become the party of the Bull Moose.

Zachary Freeman is an anthropology junior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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