By Matthew Reilly
Liberal politics are currently centered around identity politics and social issues, while only adopting weak centrist economic policies that do nothing for a majority of Americans. This is a major reason for their total loss in 2016. Democrats lost their hold in all areas of government, including local, state, federal, and legislative. If the Democrats want to win elections in the future, they need to adopt a much more left-leaning economic platform and identify themselves more with working people, thus encouraging lower-income whites to identify on the basis of class rather than race.
It is a fact that a majority of people are sick of politics that do nothing for them. This discontent often turns into action during election season. Many Democrats and Republicans alike felt disappointed by Obama’s presidency, and yearned for a change come election season. The far-left criticized Obama for his centrist policies that they felt did nothing to stop the deepening divide of economic inequality in the United States. While the far-right accused him of being too lenient on social justice issues and illegal immigration. These criticisms are a huge reason for the enormous rise of Bernie Sanders and now-President Donald Trump. They were direct responses to the Obama years, each born out of a desire for change on both sides. Hillary Clinton’s loss, however, goes far beyond identity politics and immigration. The reason truly boils down to the enormous imbalance of wealth in the United States, which illustrates the need for liberals to shift further to the left in terms of economics.
In January, the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, held a townhall meeting to address concerns over the Trump administration. She took a question from a young college student, Trevor Hill, who first thanked her for her efforts in fighting for his rights as a gay man. He then brought up a Harvard poll which showed that 51 percent of people aged 18 to 29 no longer support capitalism.
“That’s not me asking you to make a radical statement about capitalism, but I’m just telling you that my experience is the younger generation is moving left on economic issues,” Hill said on live television. “But I wonder if there’s anywhere you feel the Democrats could move farther left to a more populist message, the way the alt-right has sort of captured this populist strain on the right wing – if you think we could make a more stark contrast to right-wing economics?”
Pelosi’s response angered progressive leftists everywhere.
“I thank you for your question. But I have to say, we’re capitalist – and that’s just the way it is,” Pelosi said awkwardly. “However, we do think that capitalism is not necessarily meeting the needs with the income inequality that we have in our country.”
The backlash was immediate. The backlash to her rather weak answer proved the Democratic Party is having a tough time harnessing young progressives’ exuberant energy to their benefit. Even more plainly, it illustrates how badly the Democrats messed up by backing Clinton over Sanders. Bernie Sanders is currently the most popular politician in the United States and is supported by a whopping 80 percent of Democrats, according to a Harvard-Harris survey. Sanders, whether people like it or not, skillfully captured the minds and hearts of millenial progressives everywhere and energized them into action. He achieved this by adopting a much more left-leaning economic platform than his opponent, an action which prompted many to decry him as a socialist, though is in fact a Democratic Socialist, which is entirely different and much less radical. He represented progress and change, while Clinton represented more of the same.
Hillary Clinton did herself a huge disservice by declaring herself to be a continuation of the Obama years on an episode of Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. After receiving bipartisan backlash for that comment, Clinton quickly retracted her words and never said it again. But it was clear the statement was still true due to her hawkish, pro-interventionist war views and love for corporate cash. If she had adopted even just a few of Sanders’ economic policies, she’d have done much better in the election. The centrist policies she adopted did nothing to win over young & independent voters who are living with their parents, straddled with overwhelming student debt, and working paycheck to paycheck in low-wage positions despite having obtained college degrees.
Sanders’ calls for free college tuition, single-payer healthcare, higher minimum wage, and strong Wall Street regulations are an extreme departure from typical Democratic economics, despite being incredibly popular amongst a majority of Democratic voters. Clinton’s approach, which disappointed many young voters, was to maintain a more “reasonable” approach to economics, labelling Sanders’ ideas as great ideas with no basis in reality. But what many, including Clinton, failed to realize is that all of Sanders’ proposals are indeed grounded in solid economic reasoning. The free college tuition was to be financed by taxing Wall Street transactions. A higher minimum wage at McDonalds, for example, could be accomplished by raising the price of a Big Mac from $4.90 to $5.50. These ideas are not radical, they are not outrageous, they have been shown to work flawlessly in many countries in Europe, and they’re all extremely popular policy proposals. The Democrats are squandering their base by refusing to adopt these popular policies, and are almost ensuring low voter turnout in the next election if they decide to nominate another candidate with centrist views on economics. If Democrats indeed want to defeat President Trump in 2020, they need to embrace the needs and desires of their millenial base, which means shifting to the economic left. Addressing issues that matter to young and independent voters is what drives young and independent voters to the voting booths.