The harsh reality of so called, “Moderates”.
We all know the old saying. “Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result is…” Well, let’s say that you believe in civility, and the “i-word” is too mean spirited for you. Let’s assume that you don’t like name calling. With that said, let’s operate within the parameters of the definition we’ve just established. Let’s look at this solely from a nuts and bolts perspective, and apply it to the current Democratic Party. How is the Democratic Party doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result? The proponents of “Centrism” cite practicality/pragmatism as their main grounds for believing in it. It’s how to, “get things done”, it’s how we win, and it’s the most inclusive way to accomplish these goals. That’s the argument in a nutshell, the only problem is — it’s wrong.
“I’ll get it Done!”
Moderates usually campaign on their record of getting things done. We’ve all seen the Mike Bloomberg ads, “Mike will get it DONE”. We’ve heard Joe Biden tout his record as a Senator and Vice President. Their records are full of moments when they worked with Republicans to hammer out deals and pass bills into laws. Or, in Bloomberg’s case, being a Republican himself (no seriously, the man won THREE terms as a Republican Mayoral candidate). This argument in a vacuum isn’t a bad one. Bipartisanship plays a large role in the divided era of politics we’re currently experiencing. The problem with this argument is what they have worked across the aisle to do.
Some of the things that they’ve worked with Republicans to get done are the Iraq War, cuts to Social Security, and mass incarcerating black & brown people (even stopping and frisking us). If you’re a Democrat, which one of those things appeal to you? Which one of those things motivates you to jump out of bed on the morning of election day and get in your car or on the bus to go vote? I’m guessing not a single one of them. So the question is, why would we ever in a million years want to vote for candidates that have, and will probably continue to enable Republicans to get these things done? You might be wondering, “but surely Republicans can get behind the things we like”. Wellllll, I wouldn’t hold my breath for that…
Do you support raising the minimum wage? Republicans don’t. Do you support expanding healthcare, or even guaranteeing it as a right to all people? Republicans wouldn’t agree. Do you support expanding funding for Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid? Republicans give those programs a big fat NO. In short, there is no, “working across the aisle”, with the current GOP. They are morally bankrupt and completely opposed to doing virtually anything to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in this country. Don’t believe me? Take a look at how far they went to obstruct every single thing that Former Democratic President Barack Obama proposed. Many of those proposals had measures to appease Republicans in them, and they STILL voted no. The lesson I took from this is that there is no negotiating with Republicans, so don’t bother. They are our opponents, the only way to win and get what we want/need done is to beat them and have a majority. So does “centrism” help you win?
It’s true that in the 2018 Midterm elections, Moderates fared the best. Perhaps this is because moderates get much more support from the Democratic Party. They also get preferential treatment from the corporate news media. Could these two factors impact the success rate of the said candidates in their elections? I believe so. Essentially, campaigning as a “Progressive” or a “Populist” is setting the game to hard mode, while campaigning as a Moderate is setting the game to intermediate. While running as a Moderate is easier, is it truly worth it? The price one pays for having an easier time campaigning is that you’ll be leaving a lot of working class people behind to go chase around wealthy campaign donors. After doing all of that, you have to turn around and ask those same working class voters for their votes even though you won’t be doing much if anything at all to help them. Let’s look at the effect that this has had on Democratic Presidential candidates in recent history.
How many times have you heard, “we need to run a moderate to win this election”? Personally, I’ve lost count at this point. We’ve been duped into supporting moderates my entire life. I’m 25 years old now, and I’ve yet to witness a general election in which a Moderate Candidate won. Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, John Kerry lost in 2004, and Al Gore lost in 2000. Barack Obama governed like a Moderate; however, he campaigned as a populist. He went onto win two terms. His first victory was much more sizable than his second. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that he had more ambitious ideas the first time around. Sure, Republicans called him a Socialist and a Communist, but the American people didn’t care because he wanted to help make their lives better. So, the lone populist/progressive Presidential Candidate is 2–0 since the turn of the millennium, while moderate candidates are 0–3. Remind me why we should nominate another Moderate for President again?
Unlike Republicans, Democrats rely on a very diverse coalition of voters to win elections. This group of various races/ethnicities, sexual orientations, and religious backgrounds is known as the Rainbow Coalition. It also makes up the Democratic Party’s voting bloc. Appealing to only one demographic can be tough, because no group is a monolith. As a result, appealing to several of them all at once can seem almost impossible. Different people want different things for different reasons. With that said, the best way to go about creating unity is by dreaming big. The most marginalized people need the most help. The least marginalized people need the least help, but they still need help getting by in our crumbling economy. The most unifying trait of the Rainbow Coalition is class. We’re all working people just trying to get by. As a result, means tested approaches to policy making will often fall flat within our coalition, and for good reason. We’re all struggling to get by. We’re all living paycheck to paycheck. The problem is, the way Moderate Democrats craft policies, discussions, and debates on the issues leaves a lot of us out.
When Pete Buttigieg was still in the Presidential race, he railed against universal tuition-free public colleges because, “the children of billionaires don’t need it”. When Amy Klobuchar was still in the race, she railed against Universal Health Care because it, “wasn’t realistic”. Elizabeth Warren has fallen flat with college students in large part because her plan for Student Loan Debt cancellation only cancels debt for people coming from household incomes of less than $100,000, and it will only cancel up to $50,000 of debt per person. In short, these aren’t unifying ideas because they explicitly leave out a lot of people, and limit their own reach before we even get to the bargaining table. The Democratic Party can’t expect voters to unite together if they can’t provide them with policies that they can all benefit from.
The argument needs to be, “we want your tax money to go to things that benefit you”. That’s an argument that many Americans, including conservatives, could truly get behind. Instead we’re chastised for wanting our own money to go to things that help us. We’re crafted as entitled and selfish, simply for wanting a chance at a better life. How does this breed unity? How does this help build solidarity? How does this make us hopeful for a better future? Running for an elected office and championing everything you’re NOT willing to do is an interesting strategy. As recent history shows us, it’s also a losing one. It’s time us voters realize it, and not repeat our mistakes.