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Analysis | What is the Future of the Democratic Party?

             12/4/2018

Bernie Sanders

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The Democratic Party has changed considerably over time, becoming a major political force over the course of the 19th and 20th century. Since then, they had scored a number of significant policy victories from Franklin Roosevelt’s sweeping economic policies during the Great Depression to John F. Kennedy’s race to the moon. However, different forces within the party now have vastly different ideas of where to go from here. There are many possibilities for the future of the Democrats ranging from splintering and falling into disarray to becoming the dominant political force of the 21st century.

The Democratic Party has early roots tracing back to the foundation of the country, however, the organization as it stands named today was founded in 1828 by Andrew Jackson’s supporters. Beginning in the Progressive Era leading up to World War 1, the Democrats began to embrace increasingly left-wing economic policies, and since the 1960s, have taken to supporting left-wing social policy as well. After 2008, the party had significant momentum and enacted vast changes, seeming to reach its zenith, in the early years of the Obama Administration. They gained the support of major corporations, celebrities, educational institutions, and artists, becoming the dominant cultural force in America for the time. However, in recent years, it appears their influence has begun to wane. Party members, concerned about the Republicans’ recent successes, are split on where they can go.

Ideologically, there is a growing rift between classical and new “social justice” wings. Especially popular in college campuses, the so-called “intersectional” wing of the party sees the world through the lens of societal oppression, effectively making every issue a social issue. With every successive college graduating class, an increasing portion of the highly-educated workforce and leaders are subscribing to this, however, it remains especially unpalatable to those who disagree, seen as immature, rebellious and irritating. Interestingly, the support for left-wing social issues is increasing according to polls, and the biggest threat to the left’s progress is their own bad behavior. Videos of shouting protesters garner millions of views on the internet, which is the right’s primary place of organization. The Internet, being an easy way to cast light on the worst actors to the world, has made it unacceptable for such behavior to be encouraged by the party’s leaders. Right-wing commentators have seen massive growth in recent years, entirely focused on targeting these particular ideologues. If Democrats cannot encourage better behavior particularly from their youngest, college-educated members, they will lose their cultural dominance, not through Hollywood and TV, but independent social media videos, and with political dominance falling close behind.

By contrast, moderate wings of the party see a future of progress through politeness and willingness to cooperate and have dialogues across the aisle. Prominent moderate Democrats like Dave Rubin, Sam Harris, and Christina Hoff Sommers have made strides to reach across the aisle, while still arguing their ideological points for all to hear. They agree still on major policy issues, however, they reject the radical left’s ideas of judging people by their victimized identities rather than the merit of their ideas. Figures like Rubin, Harris, and Sommers are generally well-received by the right despite their solidly-left positions, and many self-professed “moderates” in the 2018 midterms have shown the ability to be very serious challengers in even the deepest Republican states.

There is also the issue of anti-establishment views. An increasing portion of people are frustrated with career politicians who are predictable, unoriginal and canned, and seek out new, honest people, regardless of competence. Bernie Sanders, Ben Jealous, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are examples of growing anti-establishment sentiment. Historically, Theodore Roosevelt split from the Republican party with the same idea, and that resulted in a divided voter base. That election, Democrat Woodrow Wilson won.

Evidence suggests currently that the Democrats’ best path to electoral success is to encourage discipline on their young social radicals while returning to the ideas and arguments of traditional Democrat issues. The politicians themselves should be personally unique and exciting enough to break from the norm, but still, garner enough experience and do enough research to be well-informed.

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