Editorial: Are Progressives Costing the Democrats Votes?

By Ian Conte, Copy Editor

The Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) hopes of gaining a vast majority in both houses of congress were squashed during the 2020 election. Republican voters met Democrats with a “red wave” in down-ballot races, gaining seven seats in the House of Representatives and holding onto their majority in the Senate by a narrow margin. Control of the Senate will be decided in late January with a runoff election in Georgia, which is expected to flip control of the Senate to the Republicans.

With their disastrous mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Republican Party handed Democrats a blue majority in Congress on a silver platter. Despite this, Democrats struggled to hold onto their majority in the House, and will likely lose the Senate. Many of the establishment members of the Democratic Party blame their progressive colleagues, saying that their socialistic rhetoric is driving away mainstream voters. 

This is not the case. In reality, centrist and right-leaning Democratic candidates who oppose policies like Medicare For All and the Green New Deal, which are popular among the young and working class Democrat voters, are the ones driving voters away from the Democratic Party. Moreover, establishment Democrats are the ones who are losing their races. 

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), a progressive representing New York’s 14th congressional district, is leading the left’s fight against the Democratic establishment. Following establishment attacks post-election, AOC responded by accusing the democratic establishment of allowing “Republican narratives to tear [the Democratic Party] apart.”

AOC went on to note that every Democratic house candidate in a swing district who co-sponsored Medicare For All legislation won reelection, whereas at least seven establishment democrats in swing districts lost. Additionally, only one out of 93 co-sponsors of AOC’s Green New Deal lost their bid for reelection, according to the Cook Political Report Partisan Voting Index.

And yet, the establishment wing of the Democratic Party continues to attack progressives for being too far left. This is because the party’s leadership is dominated by politicians funded by mega-corporations, banks, and the billionaire class – all of which will be held accountable under progressive government.

A prime example of this is the party’s response to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ two failed presidential bids. Sanders supported popular progressive legislation such as Medicare for All and a federal living wage and proposed that this legislation would be funded by tax increases on the rich and large corporations. Unsurprisingly, Democrat leaders denounced his primary campaigns for being too radical and wildly unrealistic, and made every effort to push him out of the race.

In addition, democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made fun of AOC’s Green New Deal during an interview with Politico, referring to it as “the Green Dream, or whatever they call it.” This is in spite of Pelosi positioning herself as a long time supporter of climate change legislation.

Attacks against progressives such as AOC and Sanders highlight a dichotomy in the Democratic Party: a base of young workers – tired of being neglected and left behind in the name of capitalism, and the old, establishment politicians – lap dogs of the billionaires who reap untold riches at the worker’s expense.

It is clear that progressives are not costing the Democratic Party votes. Rather, it is the capitalistic establishment of the party itself that drives away a massive base of young progressives and throws elections to the Republicans. AOC put it best: “I’ve been begging the party to let me help them for two years. And every single one that rejected my help is losing. And now they’re blaming [progressives] for their loss.”