TWO overreaching US Presidents, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, have broken the Democratic Party’s model of government in Washington. In each case, the model – go big from the start but risk losing big – turned out to be political hara kiri.
Obama and Biden both departed from the spirit of bipartisanship bequeathed by the founding fathers. They set out to transform the country whether a majority of Americans liked it or not, something which is always high-wire politics in mature democracies that prefer incremental change.
At least Obama passed his health care law, a major win, although the brutal way he did it meant sacrificing control of the House in 2010 at the expense of his own power. He never did anything as remotely ambitious during his last six years and was replaced by Donald Trump.
Biden, in contrast, has nothing to show for a first year in the White House dedicated to big spending and voting reform which failed. Barring a miracle, Republicans will retake the House and possibly the Senate this year, neutering the rest of his presidency.
More significantly for the future, the November elections will be a watershed for the Democratic Party from which it is likely to emerge further Left and with a younger generation of progressives in de jure as well as de facto control of its leadership.
The present Democratic leaders in the House are all of an age with Biden who, at 79, is the oldest American President. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who impeached Donald Trump twice, is almost 82. Steny Hoyer, her deputy, is a year older. James Clyburn, the number three, is also 82.
Burning behind them with frustrated zeal is a growing cohort of young socialists in their 30s and 40s including the charismatic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, and members of her squad, elected since 2018, adored by the media and determined to keep pushing Democrats in a progressive direction.
This is not Ash Sarkar idly boasting that she’s a communist from the comfort of a daytime television sofa. There are already 100 Democratic progressives in the current House and they are expected to inherit the debris of 2022 in the next House. They will dictate who replaces the Pelosi troika. AOC is probably too young to take the reins herself (though her star quality means she may do later on) but she will be influential in the choice.
The next step for the progressives will be to ensure one of their own wins the 2024 Democratic Party presidential nomination, which is wide open. Jeremy Corbyn has demonstrated how it’s done as indeed did Trump when he forensically eliminated his 2016 rivals one by one.
Biden says he’ll run again but won’t because a majority of voters are convinced he’s already too old for the job. Vice President Kamala Harris, although she ticks the right boxes by being black and female, has been shop-soiled by her incompetence in office. A savvy, progressive black woman like Stacey Abrams from Georgia would blow her away.
Jeff Weaver, who was Senator Bernard Sanders’s presidential campaign manager in 2020, said the progressive Left would run a candidate regardless of Biden or Harris. ‘Progressives are ultimately ascendant,’ he told Politico. ‘And if nothing else, a progressive who gets a lot of support will demonstrate that the ideas the progressive movement embraces are, in fact, popular.’ https://www.politico.com/news/2022/01/01/progressives-2024-primary-challenge-526299
If Weaver is right, which is not at all certain, the obvious danger is that American politics will become even more polarised than now.
No one has any illusions that progressives and centre-Left Democrats are a force to be reckoned with. They wield power far beyond their overall numbers in key institutions ranging from the education system, all the way from kindergarten to university, the media, corporate America, entertainment and the ‘deep state’.
Democrats also run America’s biggest cities, which is why the party wanted to federalise national elections in ways that would harm rural and suburban Republican voters.
What progressives embrace are constantly expanded social and welfare entitlements, an open southern border and citizenship for illegal immigrants, equality of outcome across the economy for blacks and other minorities, the payment of reparations for slavery and acceptance of the 1619 version of history, all of which sharply divide Americans – including moderate Democrats from their own Left.
AOC and her friends have institutional power with long tentacles but their belief that this translates into electoral potential is a bit like the Labour Party’s certainty that it could win the 1983 UK general election with the longest suicide note in history.
Grassroots Americans are gradually rebelling against the consequences of the Left’s ‘long march through the institutions’ which began after 1968. The progressives’ capture of any one of the three branches of government would be the culmination.
Biden, meanwhile, looks like a lame duck with three years of his presidency to go, which creates a dangerous vacuum for the White House.