The Democrats need to move left to survive

The US Democratic Party is facing the same decision as the Republicans did in 2016: what do they want the future of their party to be? Or, perhaps more accurately, who do they want to represent? In electing Donald Trump, Republicans decided not only to be the party of business and the wealthy but one that legitimises the kind of racism and disregard for truth that would have been unacceptable just a decade ago.

In 2020, there are 18 candidates running to represent the Democrats in the presidential election, but there’s only a few that have a realistic chance of winning. On the socialist side, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and towards the centre, Joe Biden. There are also a few lesser-known candidates like Andrew Yang and Pete Buttigieg who have an admittedly much smaller chance of winning. When discussing who is best placed to face Trump in the election, it’s often said that a centrist candidate is needed. Someone who won’t offend swing voters by using scary words like “socialism”, “single-payer healthcare”, or even worse “taxes”. But this isn’t true, and this belief could cost Democrats the election.

Donald Trump’s 2016 win, and Boris Johnson’s more recent victory here in the UK, has proved that you don’t, in fact, have to be racist, sexist, homophobic or a climate-change denier to vote for someone who is, even if the liberal media would have you believe otherwise. I admit to being a part of this problem, despite efforts to counter it I am protected on social media from anyone that doesn’t share my views and was therefore shocked by the exit polls. I really shouldn’t have been.

The Conservatives, and the Republicans back in 2016, discovered the key to a successful campaign – perceived stability. A large number of Conservatives were not happy with Boris’ leadership, yet the party united behind him and his clear message “Get Brexit Done”. On the other side, Corbyn’s Labour took far too long to announce their more complicated Brexit policy and the party was divided right up to election day, with many candidates expressing their concerns with the party’s leader. This presented an image of instability, similar to the division caused by many Democrats’ dislike of Hillary Clinton.

2020 is an opportunity for the party to reinvent itself. A Bernie Sanders-led Democratic Party would offer real change for the poorest Americans that were hit by Trump’s healthcare cuts and trade war job losses. However, if they want to stand up to Trump the whole party needs to unite behind him, they cannot be afraid of appearing too left-wing. Bernie’s message is clear and offers the hope of a different America, and his policies are supported by a majority of Americans. Swing voters don’t want a centrist candidate, they don’t want the status quo, they want a politician that sees the problems in their country, and offers a solution. But to win, that candidate needs the support of their entire party.

This year the Democrats must decide: do they want to be the party of the people, of real change? Or one that defends the existing system that works only for business and billionaires? If they don’t decide, they have no chance of victory.


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Henry Webb

May 2021
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