Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
While I may require the assistance of glasses, I can clearly see the writing on the wall — the Democratic party appears to be on the losing side of a decade-long siege by its hard left. The entryist tactics employed by democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders have proven successful thus far in the presidential primary process with not one, not two but three strong consecutive showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and now Nevada. Unfortunately, he is now most certainly our frontrunner and is set, I think, to take the mantle of leadership over the party going forward.
His victory, if successful, will be groundbreaking and likely indicative of a major shift in orientation for the Democratic party. For this will be the first time in which the party’s leftist wing will assume total control since our party’s embarrassing loss in 1972 with George McGovern. This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I actually think now might be the perfect time for the “Bernie-wing” to assume the leadership so that we can all be reminded of what nominating radicals get us. In many ways, we liberals have brought this upon ourselves.
This past weekend I attended a Senate candidates’ forum for the Democratic nomination at the University of North Texas. There it all became too real for me. With each answer put forth by the candidates and the subsequent reactions from the audience, mostly composed of UNT students, I increasingly forgot where I was. I quite genuinely could not recognize my own party and found the forum to be indiscernible with a Green party candidates’ forum. What most did it in for me was the thunderous applause that their foreign policy statements received. Sema Hernandez, a socialist Senate Democratic candidate, in particular, alarmed me with her apologist praises for authoritarian regimes in states like Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran. It seems as though the principles of democracy itself are now up for debate with these kinds of voices at the helm.
What became most clear for me then and there was that the future of this party, our generation, is proving to be far more radical than I ever realized. However, I persist to have faith in our institutions and with this party that my family, like so many other working-class Americans of color, have stood by for over a century. I believe we will survive this unfortunate turn to the hard-left because the current appetite among politicians and voters for radical ideas, such as it is, will not last.
As the long-time dominant faction of the Democratic party, we liberals have become a complacent elite beholden to unchallenged ideas conceived in the 1990s. Because of the past success that we have squandered, we have failed to foster a new vision for the future. I contest that the time has come for us to stop fighting for a bygone era and envision a new way forward. I have risen up time and time again to the defense of centrist politics and liberalism, but now is the time that we face facts. We no longer have the momentum and must evolve to a changing world or risk exclusion from it.
Today, the Democratic party’s political barometer may point to the hard-left, but it will not do so forever. In a decade or two, time will tell if that will still be true. The party’s near future does appear to reside with democratic socialism, but I believe with time and innovation liberalism can return to the forefront as a reinvigorated movement ready to spearhead a return to real solutions and real achievements for real people. Provided that we do the introspective self-reflection necessary to do so.
We used to be globally recognized as a movement with fresh ideas offering people new opportunities, but today we have become little more than a reactionary movement of “no.” Voters want desperately to vote for something, not against something. Liberalism, as it exists in both parties, needs to go back to being a movement driven by deep thinkers and problem solvers. We must come up with new solutions and a plan for achieving the power needed to make them possible. Therefore, a modernized model of liberal centrism is in order — one that can only be fostered from the back-benches of opposition.
My proposition to my fellow moderate-to-conservative Democrats unhappy with a potential Sanders candidacy is simple. Let the hard-left have this one and instead focus our efforts on protecting our majority in the House of Representatives and flipping the Senate. A message of unity for our party must be our priority if we are to defeat the radical right in November.