So all three sitting Democratic congresspeople from North Carolina have endorsed Joe Biden for president -- Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield, and David Price.
|Congressman David Price|
Tell me it wasn't squeamishness about the possible progressive direction of the party that motivated Alma Adams and G.K. Butterfield -- really, rank fear. Adams said, “A vote for Bernie around here would mean that we’re going to lose our governor.” Butterfield said Democrats can not win the state’s electoral votes with Sanders at the top of the ticket (or Elizabeth Warren for that matter). David Price was more circumspect, said he'd support whoever won the nomination but thought Biden had the best experience for the job.
Democratic office-holders and wannabes all over the place have the heebie-jeebies over the very real prospect that a gen-you-wine progressive will be nominated for president by the Democratic Party. Haven't had a real progressive run for president since George McGovern, and you know how that turned out. Which is precisely the fountainhead source for all the inherited terror among Democratic politicians about being labeled "socialist," or anything that smacks of the Commie.
I've had that fear. I decided to overcome it.
Moderate Democrats lost presidential elections in 1980 (Jimmy Carter), 1984 (Walter Mondale), 1988 (Michael Dukakis), 2000 (Al Gore), 2004 (John Kerry), and 2016 (Hillary Clinton). They all mainly operated under Republican labels -- "liberal" or even the dreaded "radic-lib" -- while steadfastly advocating for gradualism. They stayed away from big structural reform, like McGovern had pushed for. They were always "realistic" about "gradual remedies" while mainly looking defensive and dodgy at least half the time. (I flash on Dukakis flinching at "card-carrying member of the Civil Liberties Union.") To me, the Democratic moderate is a nervous candidate -- by nature nervous about being taken the wrong way -- trying his/her best not to offend anyone (while also not exciting many), pulling punches, looking prime-time-ready while always courting money. Every Democratic moderate who ran and lost after McGovern hoped to wash the taste of McGovern's historic loss out of their collective mouths. They failed.
Ibram X. Kendi boldly suggested the McGovern's defeat as the (curable) virus that's been afflicting moderate Democrats since 1972:
Richard Nixon won 49 states and 520 electoral votes, severely wounding the spirits of countless young progressives. And I don’t think some of them ever fully recovered. “It was a generational defeat,” as BuzzFeed’s Katherine Miller wrote.Don't I remember it! The wounding of the spirit is a serious thing. Takes time to recover, or maybe recovery is not even possible, especially when fear dominates philosophy.
Here's the myth the moderates accept, which Rachel Bitecofer cheekily nicknamed "The Chuck Todd Theory of American Politics":
About 55 percent of eligible voters are likely to go to the polls, and the winner is determined by the 15 percent or so of "swing voters" who flit between the parties. So a general election campaign amounts to a long effort to pull those voters in to your side.
How you do dat, moderates? Pull those swing voters to your side? You know how you do it. You begin to talk (and God help us! think) more like a Republican.
Moderate Democratic organs want to talk about the 6 million Obama-to-Trump voters that won the election for Trump in 2016. They think they can win them back in 2020 but not by being too "progressive" and certainly not by being within shouting distance of "socialist." But here's a fact that Ibram X. Kendi zeroes in on: in Obama's reelection in 2012, after he'd shown himself as less a progressive warrior than a man repeatedly genuflecting to the bankers, some 4.4 million Obama voters from 2008 simply did not vote at all in 2016, uninspired by Hillary and devastated that the true progressive in the race -- Bernie -- got shut out. In 2012 another 2.3 million former Obama voters went third party, and progressivism went back in the closet but wouldn't stay there.
The Great Untapped (new or only occasional voters energized for major progressive change) are more likely to be younger and people of color. I'm with their rising. Given the chance, might they not take their rightful place in the power structure?
Ibram X. Kendi again:
Ibram X. Kendi again:
Moderate Democrats blame progressive candidates for losses, but they can’t seem to blame moderate candidates for losses. Moderates can’t seem to reflect on the historical electability of their candidates, as they implore progressives to reflect on the historical electability of their candidates. Moderates recognize how progressive candidates alienate certain voters, but they can’t seem to recognize how moderate candidates alienate certain voters. Moderates implore progressives to give moderate candidates a chance, but they can’t seem to give progressive candidates a chance.