Holst: Democrats should move left in 2018


getty images cbies

USA Politics News Badge: Pile of Democrats Buttons With US Flag, 3d illustration

Josh Holst

Allow me to be up-front and honest: I’m what you might call “far-left.” I’m a Democrat, and I’m a progressive. So in this column, I’m going to write from the perspective of someone who wants the Democrats to win elections in 2018 and beyond.

But I don’t just want Democrats to win, I want the right Democrats to win.

As a matter of fact, I don’t really care if they’re technically Democrats or not. As long as they have progressive bona fides, I’ll support them.

Electing centrist candidates like Hillary Clinton, Joe Manchin, Dianne Feinstein or Nancy Pelosi does nothing to advance progressive policies in this country. This is why Democrats, during the years they are likely to succeed in midterm elections, need to ensure they select the correct candidates in primary and caucus elections. This will mean, inevitably, prioritizing incumbents, even if it seems to run counter to the idea of “party unity.”

First of all, there is a very good chance the Democrats pick up a lot of seats, at least in the House, in 2018. That point isn’t based on my own particular political views, but simply based on decades of evidence saying the president’s party usually struggles in midterms.

That means Democrats have a chance to make a progressive push before they attempt to take the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2020. Furthermore, it means the progressive wing of the party has a chance to primary current incumbents who are a little too centrist (see names listed above), without doing any substantial damage to their chances of winning in the general election. I encourage readers to check out candidates supported by organizations such as Justice Democrats and other grassroots left-wing groups.

Based on polling, a progressive wave has a decent chance to make the Democratic Party more popular for years to come and set them up well for 2020 or 2024.

Liberals generally hold highly popular positions on issues like single payer healthcare, gun control, marijuana legalization, the minimum wage and raising taxes on the wealthy, but have failed to capitalize on them. In order to become more popular, Democrats will have to turn away from corporate lobbyists and fight for those positions in a stronger manner than they currently do. Even when Democrats controlled both chambers of the legislature and the White House, they failed to achieve even one of those measures (the Affordable Care Act is definitely not single payer health care, or as some affectionately refer to it, “socialized medicine”).

For a more sustained progressive wave, they will need to be much more aggressive and less compromising in their approaches toward these goals. And if (or, let’s be honest, when) Republicans oppose such measures, Democrats have to simply win the public relations battle with the American people.

This shouldn’t be difficult because, as I have cited, the American people already agree with them. I understand this might sound like crazy talk, but if your political opponents are preventing you from passing the overwhelmingly popular policies that you are advocating for, it seems like that should be all you ever talk about during the next election cycle. Perhaps I just haven’t taken the same political science classes as the people currently running the Democratic National Convention.

Democrats and progressives have a chance to make a real impact in 2018, and opting for more left-wing candidates could be the best way for them to capitalize. For too long, Democrats have looked to compromise and pivot toward the center. This is the chance for the progressives to take over the party, and indeed, Washington D.C.