The intellectual vitality of the Democratic Party right now is coming from our progressives. The center, of which I was long a part, is withering, offering only the formulations of the past that have produced much of the inequality & many of the divisions and challenges of today.
Show me one new “centrist” idea, one new proposal from the center that better deals w/economic insecurity, climate change, growth, equity, education, health or inclusion. I don’t think you will find them in part because the ideas of the center are so based on compromise and there is no longer a functioning, constructive right of center group with which to compromise. That is in part the fault of the corruption of the GOP and its near exclusive service to the 1% and corporate interests.
It is in fact due to the fact that so many products of Clinton and Obama-era centrism primarily served those elites as well–from the Clinton Era repeal of Glass-Steagall or the Telecom Act of 1996 to the failure of Obama to really push hard for financial reforms after the crash.
The list is much longer–and touches on trade, the empowerment of IT oligarchs, etc. But the point is the innovation of “Third Way” Democrats, a group I was part of, was really just seeking a way to buy into the popularity of Reagan-era reforms (damaging as they were.)
(See Clinton era welfare reform as a prime example.) As a result Dem & GOP administrations of the past 40 years bear joint responsibility for contributing to the burgeoning inequality divide in America, growing economic insecurity, flat wages, plummeting real minimum wages, etc.
These policies have left 90 percent of Americans out of the money, excluded from the real upside in US growth, since the 1970s. They ended the period of the 1940s and 50s and 60s when parents could expect their kids to have better educations, better jobs, better lives.
Now, the vast majority in America recognize that the system no longer works for them, that it is, as @ewarren rightly notes, “rigged.” Anger with that is what Trump tapped into…but of course, he did it as a con, as a way to win support for even more radical theft by the rich.
And as that majority looks at what must be addressed if their children are to have any chance of a better life in America they realize there are a host of priorities on which the old “compromises” were the problem not the solution and where dramatic action is required.
These range from how we protect the climate to how we combat inequality & ensure that the richest pay their fair share & the poorest & the middle class have a genuine shot at their fair share. They also include meeting the minimum basic requirements of a 21st C social contract.
That means ensuring everyone has a right to health care, to dignity and security in their retirements, to a job that can support them and their family if they are willing to work for it, and to the affordable education they require and that we should all want them to have.
Finally, there are some things on the agenda of the GOP to which the response of the Democratic Party must include no hint of compromise because the issue is one of right or wrong not left or right. These include guarantees of equality under the law for all.
They include an end to corruption in Washington including the end to the idea that president is above the law or that the rich have the right to a different set of rules from the rest of us. They include respect for the Constitution and for human rights.
They include having public officials whose loyalties are to America first and not foreign powers with which they have murky ties that we can never know. These are not radical ideas. Indeed, most of them are the ideas the GOP embraced under Eisenhower.
Today they are seen as progressive & all credit should go to those who have championed them. But they should not be seen as the ideas of the “left” or “right.” They are not “fringe” ideas. They are in fact–each and every one of these ideas–supported by the vast majority of us.
Americans don’t want a handout. They don’t want socialism. They only want a fair shot and a chance for their kids to have a better life than they did. They want their country back from the super-empowered few who co-opted the leadership of both parties for four decades.
They want to return to traditional US values that have been enhanced by our awareness of past prejudices and errors of judgment so that once hollow ideals can be made real, ideals like endowing all, not just all men, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Set aside the labels. They are old and mostly meaningless. Listen to the majority of Americans and you will hear them calling for priorities and programs and a role of government that dovetails with what once was identified with progressives.
But listen closely enough and you will hear that these goals deserve to be seen in a different light, as American goals, as goals that are beyond party affiliations, as goals that seek to fix what is broken in our system and set us on a path to greater success and a more just and secure society for the century ahead. It takes a bit of a reset to see this…or it takes going out into the world and talking to people & listening to what they really want, to reading polls not in the context of old politics but instead in the context of the ordinary, reasonable, expectations of the great majority of Americans who are united by their aspirations.
I guess what I am saying is that I see the potential for the 2020 elections to be a watershed, when we start to reverse the 40 years of policies that served only a fraction of us and did a gross disservice to the rest. It can be…should be…the beginning of a new chapter.