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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: The Left’s Assignment, Should They Decide to Accept It

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

To be honest, I don’t have a lot of confidence that the left will accept this assignment, but I think it is quite clear both what the assignment is and that they should accept it.

The assignment: help Biden succeed. His policy commitments are plenty progressive and it will be a big challenge to make progress on these commitments, even without endless sniping from the left that Biden is not a real progressive and pointless intra-party squabbles. Above all, the Biden administration needs to make rapid progress ending the coronavirus crisis and getting the economy back healthy and into high gear. No progressive dreams will come true until and unless that happens. A mature left would realize that and gladly accept the assignment to help Biden succeed.

Todd Gitlin in USA Today:

“As Donald Trump fades in the rear-view mirror, the all-or-nothing caucus has more urgent concerns. Its idea of the left requires trashing the winner because he was embraced by party elites and, embarrassingly, won primaries against candidates further to the left. Its first mantra is: Moderates will sell you out. Its second: Half a loaf is much worse than no loaf at all, because it will delude the naive masses into believing that things are moving in the right direction….

The sure road to irrelevance under a government that brings together disparate forces is to inflame rage at the moderates more intensely than one mobilizes forces to strengthen “the left wing of the possible,” in Michael Harrington’s memorable phrase.

The unreconciled “we told you so” folks are ever ready to call “Gotcha!” It’s as if the evidence demonstrates (contrary to fact) that progressive congressional candidates are sure to win in moderate distracts. The chorus must always be tuned up, ready to go, to signal to hyper-alert Democrats that their party is, at bottom, nothing more than the neoliberal Tweedledee to Trump’s aspirationally fascist Tweedledum.

What the “we told you so caucus” does not understand is that the whole Democratic Party — moderates as well as the left — shares a stake in helping Biden succeed. Only if he delivers quickly, beginning next month, can progressive politics come to life. If the Democrats win the two Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5, the odds for deep reform are even better, though even if Republicans keep control of the Senate, some doors for progressive change will remain open. Shouting insults at Biden is not the way to make the most of the Democrats’ strength. Neither is cuing up the circular firing squad.

Democratic power can only be anchored, over the longer haul, by showing that Democratic government works for a majority. The only way to peel away some of the less fanatical Trump supporters, over time, is to deliver — to put money in their pockets — to demonstrate that Biden policies stand to shore up a big tent that has room for them, too.”

EJ Dionne in the Post:

“Since {Biden’s] gains this year over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote were larger among college graduates and suburbanites than among those without college degrees, he needs to continue his outreach to the less privileged — White but also Latino.

He can do this without breaking faith with the Black voters who gave him decisive majorities. They form a big part of the working class, and would also respond positively to an emphasis on creating well-paying jobs, lifting incomes and, more broadly, themes built around equal dignity.

In her book “The New Working Class: How to Win Hearts, Minds and Votes,” British writer (and Labour Party political adviser) Claire Ainsley highlights the themes of family, fairness, hard work and decency. They are keys to reducing polarization.

At least some of the voters who stuck with Trump did so because they liked his attacks on globalization, were more worried about the economy than the pandemic and felt ignored by conventional politicians. Biden needs to push the parts of his program (its “buy American” components, for example) that speak directly to these frustrations.

The fights he chooses to pick with Republicans should be on behalf of proposals (a higher minimum wage, affordable health insurance, more family-friendly workplaces, political reform to reduce big money’s role in politics) that make clear who is on the side of the forgotten…..

The larger lesson is that culture wars are at the heart of our polarization. If they become ferocious, they will block Biden’s efforts to broaden his reach. As a religious person, Biden — simply by virtue of who he is — can reduce levels of mistrust bred by the growing secular/religious divide, and he needs to handle church/state questions with care. He has a moral obligation to be uncompromising on issues of racial justice, but advocates of change need to find arguments (and, yes, slogans) that appeal across existing lines of division.

And nothing unites like success (one reason Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” slogan was so effective), so ending the pandemic and restoring the economy should be the Democrats’ lodestar.”

So, pretty simple right? Culture wars, bad; helping Biden succeed, good. Time for the left to step up and do what needs to be done.

4 comments on “Teixeira: The Left’s Assignment, Should They Decide to Accept It

  1. Linda on

    I would like to hear less about ‘ what we say to win elections’. I want to vote for people like Biden and many of the other Democratic nominees. Words that when put into action will get support because citizen have seen a positive impact in their lives. To quote ,Dignity is compelling because it is a value, not an ideology or a program. But neither is it an empty slogan. Dignity has strong implications for both policy and our culture. And it answers a moral yearning felt both individually and collectively. Lifting up dignity as a core national purpose is essential to renewing a society that has lost track of the powerful “We” that opens our Constitution. A commitment to equal dignity can play an important role in pulling together a nation that Trump has devoted himself to dividing. Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown-staunch pro-labor Democrat

  2. Candace on

    Who and what are you talking about? What did an actual person say or do that you think wasn’t helpful to Biden that he couldn’t handle?

    “Culture wars bad”
    How are you going to convince the Republicans?

    • fred sims on

      The republican party right now is pretty dysfunctional. All they have to offer is hate and fear for middle and poor white people and low taxes for the rich ones. Thier candidates in the south act like darwn award winners at least when the speak to thier voters . Right now the party is more of a cult than a pollical party.

  3. Victor on

    Most progressives are in the attitude of dissolving the people and voting in a new one.

    I say this as a pretty radical progressive. But I want to win elections.


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