by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
At Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of the nation’s progressive leaders, some Democratic lawmakers declared war against their own party’s centrists.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a likely Democratic candidate for president in 2020, proclaimed that Democrats would not be “going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill.” She sneered that Democrats used to tell party members to “give up, keep your heads down, be realistic, act like a grown-up, keep doing the same old same old.” But in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, the party’s left wing has won control, she said, and is now of the soul of the modern Democratic party. “We don’t have to tip-toe anymore. We don’t have to hedge our bets.”
She then proceeded to reel off a host of issues around which she sees Democrats uniting: support for “undocumented” immigrants, single-payer government health care for all, debt-free college, federally funded pre-kindergarten, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
This kind of left-wing chest thumping stirs rueful memories for many centrist Democrats. It was precisely their party’s excessive attachment to special-interest groups that made Democrats lose three straight presidential elections in the 1980s, leading to the rise of Bill Clinton’s “New Democrats.” Clinton won back-to-back victories as president, in part because he moved to the center and pursued successful strategies such as welfare reform and tax cuts for businesses.