The Democrats’ progressive wing is enjoying a renaissance since the party’s crushing defeat in the 2014 midterm election, chalking up victories and capturing the attention of congressional leaders on causes near and dear to their hearts.
Some of the change is structural. The election wiped out red state senators and House members in less progressive districts, reducing the new minority party to a more ideologically cohesive unit. The loss of the Democrats’ Senate majority also breaks a four-year holding pattern in which leaders had to cut deals with the conservative-dominated House, making it somewhat easier for them to stand or fall on principle.
“It’s very, very liberating,” said one Democratic Senate leadership aide.
When I worked for Howard Dean, in the 2004 election, he used to like to quote Harry Truman in his stump speech:
“If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time.”
The point, when Howard Dean said it, was that far too many Democrats were trying to be like President Bush, in 2003, when the President’s popularity was soaring, but Dean was offering a real alternative. Yet, it could just as easily apply to the many Democrats, especially in the South, who became nearly indistinguishable from Republicans, not just on issue, but in tone.
Lo and behold, the slow burn of so called Blue Dogs completed in 2014, and voters voted for genuine Republicans, across the board.
Finally, it seems like Democrats are finally taking the right lesson away from these losses. In the past, they always seemed to answer defeat by moving more to the right, assuming the country wanted conservatism. But, in the past few days, it is becoming apparent that, finally, Democrats realize they need to offer a real choice – a progressive choice.