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.
Really, it is pretty astonishing, just how much Progressives have stamped their brand on the Democratic party, in just a little more than two months.
Let’s also not forget that President Obama seems to be finding a bit of a progressive groove, too. No, I’m not suggesting he’s perfect. From his backing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, to wanting to nominate some Wall Street cronies to Treasury, the President isn’t a total model for progressivism.
But, from his planned announcement on free community college, to forceful case for expansion of community high-speed broadband, the President is proposing things that Blue Dog Democrats (and plenty of consultants) would have told him were just “too big government.”
And, well, whattya know? In conjunction with his new progressive proposals and bolder public persona, President Obama’s approval numbers are rising. It indicates that when you get down to it, Americans want to know their President stands for something, other than just being a bulwark against the GOP’s extreme social policy proposals.
There is a lot to be said about progressives putting more money into state and local parties, to build a permanent majority. I wholeheartedly agree with that strategy. But, there has to be a cohesive, strong message from the top. And it has to be backed up with easy-to-grasp policy proposals.
If the past few weeks are any indication, those who now firmly control the Democratic caucus, and the White House, understand that.