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Biden won, but what now for the Democrats? (Part I)

Democrats progressive moderate

Podcast Editor Sam Pennifold on divisions between progressive and moderate Democrats and it’s risk to the party’s political power.

Joe Biden might now be the not so fresh-face of the Democratic party, with Kamala Harris the presumptive heir to the throne in eight years, but the future of the Democratic party isn’t all smooth sailing.

The Democrats managed to keep the House, but lost six seats whilst the Republicans gained seven, putting them within sixteen seats. The Democrats also failed to take back the Senate on the night, but now it all comes down to what will be two very close run-off elections in Georgia. This all means that, for now, melted-wax-figurine Mitch McConnell will remain the Senate Majority Leader where he will inevitably seek to take a stranglehold on Biden’s policy agenda for the next four years – creating a similar position to what many felt squeezed the life out of Obama’s second term.

This election was seen by some as a chance for the Democrats to clean sweep the Executive and Legislative arms of the government, so why wasn’t it?

Simple, moderate and progressive Democrats are in a civil war and suffering a massive identity crisis. They have been for a long time.

Regardless of politics, over 72 million people still voted for Donald Trump in this election, an increase of almost 10 million from his vote tally in 2016. While Trump might almost be gone, Trumpism most certainly is not and neither, unfortunately for the Democrats, is the Republican party. The Democratic party is in dire need of some serious soul searching if they want to build on the precarious hold on the power they have right now.

Biden represents the more moderate wing of the Democratic party. Hillary Clinton of the last election represented a similar vein of moderatism believing in small incremental steps, though some of the rising stars of the party such as congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, Ilhan Omar and Jaime Harrison represent a growingly powerful more “radical” or progressive wing of the party.

The Democratic party has always been a bigger tent than the Republican party and, with that, there have always been different wings. But now the Democratic tent is in danger of pulling itself apart. The Hill reported that, just days after, the elected members of the moderate Democratic caucus were jumping up and down on members of the progressive wing, presumably upset that the party was losing its grip on the house once again.

Many moderate house Democrats seem to feel the party lost key house and senate races because of its  more progressive elements pushing such radical policies as “defund the police.” When you examine its nuances, This can seem to be fairly moderate and sensible reallocation and restructuring of the police to achieve new policy aims. But it suffers from poor naming and may not garner massive popular support.

The question may need to be asked while we, the younger generations in America and elsewhere, may be ready for massive and sweeping progressive changes to society, is every generation similarly ready? Our votes are worth no more or less and, once upon a time, the generation before us, and the generation before them, was the most progressive as well.

It seems though that Joe Biden may have decided the future of the party by himself. Jaime Harrison, having almost beat Lindsey Graham in the South Carolina Senate race while setting fundraising records left, right and centre, has been tipped as the man who Biden will throw his weight behind in the race for the Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

This move would set a progressive agenda for the future of the Democratic party, perhaps at the dismay of more moderate Democratic politicians and voters. The danger in this could be turning more moderate voters towards the Republican party’s message.

World politics today seems to have descended into a mudslinging contest of identity politics. But Joe Biden has just won an election, albeit a tight one, as a moderate. Perhaps it would be better to set a more moderate course that takes in both moderate and progressive policies.

There is an inherent danger in political parties running to their extreme flanks for short term successes rather than focusing on long term policy aims. If the Democrats want to build on this Joe Biden presidency, they may need to stop running and start focusing.

Either way, one clear direction needs to be set, be that in one large moderate tent or a smaller progressive one. Otherwise, the Republican party may have a chance to jump on the parties disorganisation.



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