Six months after losing the presidential election, progressives and Democrats continue to ventilate on the reasons for their failure and the best strategy forward.
Democratic pollster Mark Penn asserts the only “path back to power … is unquestionably to move to the center.” He calls on Democrats to “reject socialist ideals” that are unpopular with most Americans, pointing out that only 25% of registered voters are liberal (read progressives), while 75% consider themselves to be moderate or conservative.
Progressive/socialist Bernie Sanders disagrees with Penn’s assessment. Sanders assets America’s “current economic model is a dismal failure” and claims a socialist agenda, which includes more taxes, more government spending, free higher education, and a single-payer health system, will produce future electoral victories.
The debate, whatever its value, is moot; the progressive express has already left the station.
Tom Perez, the most liberal cabinet member in Obama’s administration, was named chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in February and Keith Ellison, chairman of the Progressive Caucus, is Deputy Chair. Since gaining control of the DNC, they’ve filled the key management positions with progressives.
Perez’s top priority is to build the party’s infrastructure with state Democratic organizations so they “are a force on important issues.” Ellison is responsibility for grassroots mobilization, outreach to progressive organizations and labor, coordination with national campaign committees, and “online voter engagements.”
The DNC now has five vice chairs:
- Ken Martin, a longtime Ellison supporter, has dedicated his life to “organizing for social and economic justice, electing progressives, and building electoral power.” He’s charged with political strategizing, managing state party partnerships, fundraising, and candidate recruitment.
- Maria Elena Durazo, Vice President of the UNITE HERE International Union, which represents 270,000 hospitality workers in the US and Canada, is responsible for coordinating with organized labor and outreach to Latinos.
- Michael Blake, a New York Assemblyman, has a broad portfolio, including constituency mobilization and outreach to elected officials, millennials, African Americans, and progressives.
- Grace Meng, a “true progressive,” was elected to Congress in 2013. She’s tasked with rebuilding the DNC’s surrogate program and liaisoning with Congressional members, women, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.
- Karen Carter Peterson, chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party, oversees voter participation and protection, cybesecurity, State Attorneys General, African American outreach, and fundraising.
In addition to populating the DNC with progressives, Perez and Ellision have introduced a progressive legislative agenda, called the Peoples Platform. Among its goals are free health care, free college, and a higher minimum wage.
The DNC already has its sights on the 2020 presidential election. Featured on its website homepage are pictures of Perez, Ellison, and Elizabeth Warren.
The progressives believe grassroots organizing and messaging will reverse the Democratic Party’s decline in political power. Since 2008, Democrats have lost more than a thousand elected seats of government nationwide. Republicans now control statehouses in 32 states, compared to just 13 for Democrats. As of August 2017, 34 states have Republican governors, and Republicans control Congress and the White House.
Progressives blame the former DNC, which they describe as incompetent, for the Party’s many loses. By promoting a socialist agenda and better organizing, they believe they can reverse this trend.
For all practical purposes, the DNC is now a socialist political organization. How it will be received by average Democrats will be tested in the 2018 mid-elections.