The Far Left Shift in the Democratic Party

With another 4 years of Trump Looming, Democrats will have to choose between a Progressive or Corporate Candidate. Photo by Carlos Herrero via Pexels.

With the 2020 election looming, many Democrats will be wondering who to vote for in November. There are several trains of thought within the party, with most candidates focused on being more traditionally corporate and others promoting a hard left approach. These hard left candidates promote some of the same progressive ideas as the Justice Democrats, a group created in 2017 who extoll more extreme left-wing views. The Justice Democrats are a far left party originally created by Kyle Kulinski of the podcast Secular Talk, and Cenk Uyghar from the program The Young Turks. They aim to reform the Democratic party by running a unified campaign to replace every corporate backed member and then rebuilding from scratch. Although not as popular, several younger Democratic candidates ran for or have been endorsed by the Justice Democrats, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being the most known member, notably from her online discourse with prominent Republican figures. Other members of The Squad, a group of four Progressive women of color, include Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Presley, and Rashida Tlaib, all of whom were endorsed by the Justice Democrats. Many members of The Squad have similar positions and support each other on various issues, such as abolishing ICE and supporting The Green New Deal. Although no notable Justice Democrats are running for president, candidates such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have taken similar positions on some issues. When taking in Sanders’ and Warren’s popularity, many of the hard left positions they have taken represent a heavy shift to the far left in the Democratic party. Although figures like The Squad have undoubtedly shifted the Democratic party further left, the country’s positive perception of The Squad and those who identify with them have not. In August 2019, a poll conducted by Emerson College Polling found that all four members of The Squad had unfavorable ratings that dipped into the negatives, with Ilhan Omar having -21 percent, Ocasio-Cortez having -17, Tlaib having -16, and Pressley having -11. Sanders’ favorability ratings are much higher (+22 at the time) while having many of the same policy positions as members of The Squad. The data suggests that people can support far-left policies, although not from newer members of Congress, as evidenced by the Emerson poll. In addition, the majority of the Democratic party’s platforms seem farther left than the last election, with many candidates discussing Medicare For All and free college. Sue Grabe, a legislative worker and left-wing voter, stated that she did not know who she was going to vote for yet in the coming election. “As a person who does legislative work, which is nonpartisan, with lawyers and judges, I use trust a lot in my job. Whoever can develop trust in both parties is someone I will vote for.” When questioned on the main qualities she was looking for, Grabe stated that she was mainly looking for someone that can beat Trump. “Sanders seems like a good guy, he seems well-intentioned, but I’m not sure he can win.” Grabe also stated that “[She is] looking for a middle of the road candidate. Someone who could come to the table in good faith. When asked why she did not plan to vote for Warren or Sanders, Sue stated that a more centrist way to go is the best way to go, that if a candidate went too far left, they could “go so far left they go right.” When asked about the main issue she would like to see further talked about, Grabe said, “I support the Affordable Health Care act, because healthcare is so devastatingly expensive in this country.” In her closing thoughts on the Democrats, Grabe added, “The Democrats are not together. They need more discipline and more diversity in their party.” Franklin law teacher Brian Halberg had a different view on the left-shifting Democratic Party. “It’s hard to say if the possibility of shifts is occuring in any party. A party could be leaning left or leaning right depending on the perspective of the person judging it. It’s a tricky issue, figuring out if things are moving more towards the left, and it is hard to objectively say what they should or should not do without talking to members of other parties.” Although it should be clear that the Democrats have shifted farther to the left overall, as presidential frontrunners Sanders and Warren are being championed for their more progressive policies,  no sliding on the political compass should matter if Democrats can beat Trump. If Trump is defeated, it may well be a new era for progressive policies, as well as a huge win for the Democratic Party.

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