In the age of Anybody but-isms, everyone is frantic to do whatever it takes to keep the bad guy/girl out of the picture. For Republicans there is not as much pressure to figure out the right approach as to grab hold and hope that the Reds can weather this storm. Anyone who can further cement conservatives grips on the three branches of government is good. But Democrats are facing the frustrating paradox of the true left versus the middle.
Do we try to bridge the gap enough to get our people in before figuring out the overall direction of the party, or do fight the rightward slant of today’s politics with an equally left push for democratic values?
Yesterday I drove down to my old middle school to fill in a few bubbles with ink and hopefully make a difference in my local and national government. I’m happy to admit that I’m a liberal Democrat and found a great deal to vote for in my Twin Cities district. Ellison, Klobuchar, and exciting newcomer Omar led their respective primaries and I’m thrilled. When it comes time for November, I’m pretty confident that my progressive district and city will back these strong liberal democrats. But one of my candidates lost and I can’t quite decide whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Like a lot of liberals in Minnesota I saw Erin Murphy as a solid choice pushing not just Medicare for all but Single Payer, free 4 year degrees for households earning under 150K, a raised minimum wage, automatic voter registration, LGBT rights, campaign finance reform, legalized marijuana with expunged records for offenders… the list literally goes on and on. But instead, Democrats voted in Walz. Now Walz would like many to believe that he’s a true liberal but many have been expressing doubts. Yes he like everyone else has been pushing a minimum wage bump to $15, he’s generally for LGBT and civil rights, and he’s quite a green fellow. Yet, he’s Medicare for all NOT Single Payer, he’s for education spending but not necessarily free BAs for poor families, and he doesn’t seem to be taking on inefficiencies/racial biases in the legal system through drug policies and felon rights at all. Walz himself positioned his stance so as to be the moderate who could take on Tim Pawlenty, and the distinction was not lost on Minnesotans.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m voting for Walz in November because I’ve seen what fiscal conservatives have done to Minnesota public schools, LGBT rights, and generally sucking up to the orange menace. But that’s not the issue. I’m not sure whether it’s better in a state like Minnesota for a liberal or a moderate to win the DNC ticket for governor.
I’ve been hearing more and more that someone like Murphy on the ticket would be a tragedy because when November rolled around a great deal of the red/blue donut I live in would say no way to two women (Murphy and Quade) on the ballot and extremely liberal ones at that. A good deal of moderate Democrats might be tempted to vote Johnson the same way many voted Trump instead of Clinton, and the moderate Republicans currently disgusted with the state of the Republican party would definitely not find a reason to jump ship. Better a moderate Democrat to get our foot in the door, then we can look at getting stuff done later, or so goes the argument.
I’ve seen this discussion all over the country recently with candidates like Alexandria Ocasia-Cortes, Danica Roem, and not too long ago with Keith Ellison once posed to be the next Barack Obama, now poised to be the next Minnesota Attorney General. Moderates say to liberals, “Don’t you understand the risk right now? We need to take back Congress, take back as many states as we can to put out this garbage fire. Pushing ultra liberals is only going to make the Right madder and more mobilized to put us down. The stakes are too high to risk it all on some infighting.”
But then the liberals speak up still wearing their “Do you feel the Bern” T-shirts saying, “The stakes are too high to sacrifice all of our core values, and what’s more – what sort of track record do liberal Democrats have in recent years? Liberal Democrat running on platform of Universal healthcare, racial inclusion, and LGBT rights – 8 years as president. Moderate Democrat running on not being a crazy, P**** grabbing SOB – A book literally called ‘What Happened.’ The Right has been working hard to redefine the norm to be the Republican moderate stance because the Rightists are so bonkers leftist (our current P and VP for example). Do you really want to help them by reigning in the far left side of the spectrum for a win? Who would we be then even if we won?”
As a liberal I can’t help but cheer on the first transgender candidate for Governor, the first Somali candidate for the House of Representatives, and in general the first anyone who stands for relatively agreed upon Democratic rights to send a message about who Americans really are. But what I don’t want to be is out of power any longer than I have to be. One side of me says, “You should never have to sacrifice your core principles for the “quick fix”. But the other side of me says it won’t matter much when the Republican Congress pushes a Conservative Justice elected by Mr. Collusion himself to overturn Roe V Wade, the Ban on Gay Marriage, and countless other victories Democrats have fought hard for over the years.
I still think that Bernie would have won where Hillary didn’t. I still chalk up Obama’s two time win to his willingness to see how much the political climate has swept to the left. For most cases, I still believe that Democrats would gain more previously disenfranchised votes than the lukewarm ones we’d lose if we pushed someone antithetical to Trump in 2020. But I’m not sure. Looking at the Minnesota landscape and the conservatives who quietly cheered when Trump came by insisting that Minnesotans had suffered enough from all the refugees pouring into the area, I can’t help but think that at least for this case – It’s better we had a Walz than a Murphy for the coming fight. But if I think that, then how could I confidently say I know better than all the best polling of the increasingly moderate DNC?
November will be full of easy selections. But the summer of 2020 will be full of the hardest political decisions I’ll ever have had to make.