A slew of left wing Democrats are running in the midterms – but some believe it’s too soon for a full-scale embrace of progressive ideas
Adam Gabbatt in New York
Fri 26 Oct 2018
In the midst of these bitterly contested, hyper-partisan midterm elections, one of the most interesting subplots is how the left-leaning, Bernie Sanders-inspired Democrats will fare – and what that could mean for the future of US politics.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional victory in New York in June was a high-water mark for the left. Backed by Sanders and the Democratic Socialists of America, Ocasio-Cortez crushed the Democratic insider Joe Crowley in what some heralded as a socialist dawn.
But since then some of the other Democratic candidates running on progressive platforms have faltered, falling to more traditional centrists. Which raises the question: is the US ready for a wave of democratic socialism?
The GOP is betting that it isn’t. Republicans are attempting to tie the Democratic party as a whole to progressives like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez. They believe swing voters can be intimidated by talk of socialism – a move most recently demonstrated on Tuesday when the White House published a 72-page dossier warning of “the opportunity costs of socialism”.
Scaremongering and misrepresentation aside – the document links Sanders and the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren to Karl Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong – the publication at the very least shows the level that leftwing ideas have permeated American discourse since the 2016 election.
And despite Sanders’ ultimate failure to win the nomination, and the mixed fortunes of democratic socialists since, organizers on the left insist they are at the start of something big – even if that something takes time to materialize.
“One parallel could be when Barry Goldwater lost in 1964,” said Waleed Shahid, a director at Justice Democrats, a progressive organization that works to elect candidates like Ocasio-Cortez. Goldwater, a Republican, won just six states in the 1964 presidential election but his opposition to government intervention – including opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act – arguably laid groundwork for the future of the GOP.
Shahid said: “There was a whole generation of conservative activists, organizers, intellectuals who felt emboldened to kind of plant the seeds of a movement, and that movement ultimately 16 years later led to Ronald Reagan.
“And I feel like when Bernie Sanders loss in 2016 is similar to that where I think that just ushered in a whole new generation of candidates, organizers, intellectuals who feel emboldened now.”
Shahid said Ocasio-Cortez plus candidates like Andrew Gillum, running for governor of Florida, and Ben Jealous, running for governor of Maryland, have been able to run for national office because of Sanders’ presidential campaign.