The Democratic Party is split – is taking the left or staying center the better path forward?

Mia Pisani and Naarada Samarasinghe

Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, Democrats were united behind one goal: winning the White House. However, after president-elect Joe Biden’s victory, the party’s loss of Congressional seats and a close race for control of the Senate, all eyes are on the growingly divided Democratic Party. Progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders are pushing for far-left policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, while Democratic leaders like Biden and Rep. Abigail Spanberger want the party to maintain moderate stances to attract a larger demographic of voters. With the future of the Democratic party in Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ hands, many are asking one question: Should the party remain moderate or embrace a more progressive platform?

The Democrat Party should stay moderate 

By Mia Pisani, Lifestyle Editor

Democrats are slowly becoming more progressive, with political figures such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gaining support from young voters. A majority of Gen Z is liberal, and is beginning to lean even more to the left. The drift from a more moderate stance is pushing away older generations, moderate-leaning consituients from both parties and socially liberal yet fiscally conservative voters.

More moderate voters are typically afraid leftist political figures will implement more socialist policies in the United States. Many voters are against further left ideas such as free college, cancelling student debt, defunding the police, universal healthcare, banning fracking and the Green New Deal. To them, too much government involvement is more detrimental rather than beneficial. The idea of being taxed more for extreme policies pushes these voters away. 

Moderate candidates appeal to most generations, and wouldn’t push away the further left voters. The leftist voters would rather a blue future, and in turn have created slogans like “Blue No Matter Who” and “Settle for Biden.” With his moderate stances, President-elect Joe Biden was able to attract moderate Republicans, far-left voters, and moderate Democrats. In instances like Trump vs. Biden, Biden was able to pull Republican votes because his centrist stances were more appealing than Trump’s far right rhetoric. Jo Jorgenson and third party candidates also gained voters because of the dislike for Trump’s extreme viewpoints. 

The extremes on both sides tend to push voters away. This is a major reason Sanders was unable to gain support; his policies were viewed as too extreme and too socialist. His universal healthcare plan and policies relating to education would be too expensive to maintain, as well. Not only would Sanders not receive votes, but his policies could ultimately be detrimental to the United States’ economy.

“We need to not ever use the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger. “We lost good members because of it.” Rep. Conor Lamb asked Ocasio-Cortez to put aside the progressive policies, such as the Green New Deal, to further the potential of the Democratic Party. Lamb, who was elected in a swing district, believes that the ideals of the party have been pushed too far left. In his district, like Spanberger’s, any mention of banning fracking or defunding the police will cost him the election. 

The further left ideas could be beneficial, but are unattainable with our current voters. If Gen Z wants to maintain a blue future, Democrats have to stay moderate. 

The Democrat Party should become more progressive 

By Naarada Samarasinghe, Entertainment Editor

Scrolling through Twitter, one could find countless tweets celebrating the recent win of the Democratic Party’s Joe Biden over Donald Trump as president-elect of the United States of America. If they scrolled down a bit more, this person could find another group of people who are far less excited. Not Donald Trump, Jo Jorgensen or even Kanye West supporters—though they are there—but progressives, the working class that believes they’ve been forgotten by the “Democratic establishment.”

Following the election, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who endorsed Joe Biden, made a comment that seemed to speak to these people.

“In [the working class’s] minds the Democratic Party, unfortunately, has taken on this role of the coastal urban elites who are more concerned about policing various cultural issues than improving their way of life,” said Yang on CNN.

The facts support his claims. Though the presidential election saw a significant win for the democrats, Congressional elections were far less successful, with the party losing eight seats in Congress. When this happened, many blamed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a very prominent leftist congressperson, and her associates for causing division in the Democratic Party.

This argument has nearly no basis. Of every representative that won there is one common denominator: they openly supported Medicare for All, a progressive bill that expands the healthcare of the working class that moderate Democrats object to. In addition to this policy, candidates that supported the Green New Deal, a $15 minimum wage, and rent control also saw more support than those that didn’t.

“Causing division” is a popular talking point for moderate Democrats, frequently extolling that candidates should cater to the centrists—a demographic that’s becoming increasingly minuscule, making up a measly 3.8% of the electorate, according to New York Magazine.

There are some demographics that moderate and establishment Democrats refuse to consider, though. For instance, the Latinx community. Other than whites, the Latinx population makes up the largest ethnic group in the U.S., and it is only expected to grow in population moving forward. The Latinx community mostly voted blue this year, but this population is the least likely to go to the polls. “About half of Latino registered voters (54%) say they are extremely motivated to vote this year,” Pew Research Center found in October.While some of the reasons for this is out of Democrats’ control, such as voter suppression or other forms of systematic oppression, it’s also because Latinx people didn’t feel that there was a significant difference between Trump and Biden, and thus no reason to vote for one over the other. This isn’t just because both Trump and Biden have histories of putting homophobic laws in place, normalizing racism and allegedly sexually harassing numerous women, though those facts certainly didn’t help. Rather, the reason is their policies and messaging.

The portion of the Latinx community that felt apathetic to voting in October shared much of the base of those that supported progressives like Bernie Sanders in February but became demotivated after he lost the primary due to establishment Democrats backing Biden mere days before Super Tuesday. This is problematic, as Sanders supporters were among the most difficult voting class to attract, young Latinos. To simplify the point, leftist candidates would have the same effect on Latinx voter turnout in the future as Obama had on the African-American community in 2008, greatly boosting their involvement and assuring a win for Democrats

Despite these facts, Joe Biden, a moderate, won the presidential election. While those against progressive policies will cite this as evidence against the adoption of leftism, a closer examination of the election argues the opposite. The reason democrats won the 2020 presidential election wasn’t Joe Biden, it was Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, consistent corruption, and frequent dips in popularity going into the election pushed away those who followed him in 2016, making it nearly impossible for Biden to lose. That being said, when compared to past progressive candidates, Biden’s win was by a very small margin. For example, in 2008 Barack Obama ran as a progressive against John McCain, a popular politician at the time, and one far more beloved than Trump now. Despite people’s adoration of McCain, Obama won by 192 electoral college votes. However, the moderate Biden only beat Trump by a frighteningly close 74 electoral college votes.

Currently, President-elect Biden is filling his future cabinet with centrists, much like himself. Unfortunately, the message establishment Democrats seem to be receiving from this election seems to be that they need to continue staying in the middle, trying to make a base of the tiny percentage of moderate voters rather than accepting those to the left. This only further alienates the Democratic Party from leftists, creating an environment similar to that of 2016, in which the centrist Hillary Clinton paired herself with centrist Tim Kaine against far-right Donald Trump. By refusing the progressives that could ensure consistent wins for Democrats, the party simply repeats history and will lose to the next wave of alt-right Republican candidates.