First Democratic Presidential Debate: This Isn't Clinton's or Obama's Party Anymore By Luke Perry
The first two nights of debate in the Democratic presidential primary displayed how this is not the party of Bill Clinton, or even Barack Obama, anymore. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have helped to move the party leftward.
Sanders’ progressive “revolution” was a challenge managed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Several of his policy perspectives have now become conventional thinking among the field of candidates from universal health insurance coverage to tuition free college education.
Donald Trump’s tumultuous three years in office prompted Democrats to distance themselves from the president in style and substance, rather than emulate his political or electoral strategy.
Immigration policy is a prominent example. On Wednesday evening front-runner Joe Biden was scrutinized for being part of an administration who deported more undocumented people than other presidency. Candidates raised their hands in support of covering undocumented immigrants in their proposed “Medicare-for-All.”
Some of this leftward movement is to be expected. Primary campaigns cater to more ideological party members because they are the ones who turn out to vote in primaries. Still, the first round of debates illustrated remarkably unabashed progressivism for a recent Democratic presidential campaign.
Clinton’s “New Democrat” response to the Republican Revolution of the 1980’s isolated the liberal wing of the party. Obama’s hopeful rhetoric and pragmatic competence centered on economic recovery more than broad progressive values.
Several current Democratic candidates want European style democracy and they want it now. This includes serious contenders, such as Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are experienced and talented debaters.
The platform that wins the primary is unlikely to be the same one that can win the general election. Successfully navigating these two separate electoral dynamics is imperative to Democratic hopes of defeating Donald Trump.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Professor of Government at Utica College