Today’s Democrats ... are currently locked in an internecine battle between progressives and moderates. It’s a frustrating and destructive fight because both sides are partly right.
It’s the job of the activist left to push political limits, staking out positions that sound radical today but could, with enough work, seem like common sense in the future. But in the short term, an assertive left that garners national attention can threaten the political survival of Democrats who answer to a more conservative electorate.
In a postelection interview with The Times’s Astead Herndon, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed frustration with those who are blaming leftists for Democrats’ down-ballot losses. “Progressive policies do not hurt candidates,” she insisted, noting swing-district Democrats who had co-sponsored Medicare for All legislation and the Green New Deal and had kept their seats.
But most candidates who endorsed those initiatives were in safer districts than those who didn’t. When moderate Democrats like Conor Lamb and Abigail Spanberger say that left-wing slogans are poisonous in their communities, people who don’t live in those communities should take them seriously.
Moderates need radicals to expand their scope for action. Radicals need moderates to wield power in a giant heterogenous country with sclerotic institutions and deep wells of reaction. Neither camp could have defeated Donald Trump on its own. It’s frustrating now, as it was heartbreaking in 2004, that revanchist Republicans retain such a hold on America. But that’s all the more reason for Democrats to stop their counterproductive sniping and work together to beat them.