You don’t need a degree in political science or a mass of polling data to know that the Democratic party is moving — or hurtling — to the left.
Anyone who may not have noticed the rise of Progressives in the Democratic party was brought bolt upright over the weekend after the headline-worthy drubbing of California Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein by leftist state senator Kevin de León, who won 65 percent of a state Democratic executive committee vote to Feinstein’s seven percent.
Party activists are demanding that the senator declare all-out war on President Donald Trump and shut down the Senate, if necessary, to block the confirmation of conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Even though Feinstein, who had trounced de León in the open primary, is expected to keep her seat in November, her rival’s conquest of the party’s core activists was a shock to a degree more reminiscent of the San Andreas Fault. Feinstein, liberal as she is, just isn’t keeping up with the Progressive agenda. De León has scored points by calling for the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, promoting national health insurance and impeaching President Trump.
The Feinstein fiasco comes right on the heels of the rocket-like rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York. She emerged from obscurity to defeat New York congressman Joe Crowley, the No. 4 ranking House Democrat and a contender for speaker of the House, by a 58-42 percent margin in the primary. In that solidly Democratic district, she is now the presumptive next Congresswoman.
It was a smashing victory for the left. Much of Ocasio-Cortez’s support came from the Democratic Socialists of America. The liberal Jewish voters of the Bronx will now have to decide, among other things, how much her views on Israel bother them. On May 14, when 60 Palestinians rioting on the Gaza border were killed in confrontations with IDF troops, she called it “a massacre,” and said, “Democrats can’t be silent about this anymore.”
She backtracked somewhat after a wave of criticism which noted, among other things, that Hamas itself admitted publicly that 50 of those killed were members of the terror group. Islamic Jihad claimed another three as their own. When questioned about it, the 28-year-old promised to “learn and evolve,” admitting she’s not an expert on the Mideast. “I may not use the right words,” she said.
With some tutoring from fellow socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, she will likely “learn and evolve,” though in which direction one shudders to think. The two are going to Kansas to campaign for like-minded Congressional candidates James Thompson and Brent Welder.
Since his near-miss of the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, Sanders has taken an increasingly pro-Palestinian stance, saying things that no senior Democrat has ever dared to say. For example, last month, Sanders organized the first letter signed by multiple senators criticizing Israel’s blockade of Gaza; about a week ago he released a video that gave a free platform to Palestinians claiming that theirs is a human rights cause. Israel’s right to defend itself against those who openly seek its destruction gets short shrift.
These are just some of the most prominent cases. But the fact that they represent a major trend seems beyond argument. As Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said the other day, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “represents the future of our party.”
That a self-identified socialist could be so embraced by a top national official is mind-boggling. But then, after Bernie Sanders, maybe it shouldn’t be.
Even if the leftist candidates fail to sweep the midterm elections, their already strong showing will likely push moderate Democrats to the left as they fight to stay alive politically. After the elections, in order to appease a left-turning constituency, they can be expected to become more confrontational, less amenable to bipartisan compromise than ever.
On the other hand, the Progressive surge could work to the advantage of the Republicans, possibly driving many centrist voters to their side, allowing them to hold the Congressional majority and capture the crucial swing states in 2020. The very anger against the president that fuels the leftward shift could bring about what they most dread — four more years of Donald Trump.