Democrats Making a Left Turn

National Politics

21ps-hilogoNew Orleans   Ruy Teixeira is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress. He made an interesting argument in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that he took to be obvious to any observer that the Democratic Party, that even its standard bearer, Hillary Clinton, had moved decidedly and determinedly to the left. For many progressives, and count me as one, who judge the party and its candidates by where we want them to be, rather than where we have been, that seemed much less than obvious, but Teixeira makes an interesting and important case which is worth keeping in mind no matter where we stand on this question.

First, he argues, fairly incontestably, that demographics are driving the party leftward, which they should:

Every year there are more minority voters, more unmarried voters, more secular voters, more college-educated women voters, more millennial voters, and so on. It isn’t simply that these groups lean Democratic; they also tend to favor policies that are distinctly to the left and comport well with the Democrats’ new platform….

Secondly, he argues that Democrats have been forced to confront what he calls the “Piketty problem,” which simply put lies in the fact that no one can really continue to argue that without serious intervention the crisis of inequality can be met. Laissez faire is not going to get it. Nothing is trickling down, so the pretense on which the first Clinton presidency was founded has not crashed and burned. Thomas Piketty has famously argued that society tends towards inequality, that growth alone will not produce more equality, that even unequal distribution of economic growth delivers some narrowing of inequality, and that widening inequality itself slows economic growth.

Teixeira argues that even more than Bernie Sanders, this has pushed Hillary and the Democratic platform left, and, furthermore, that all polls indicate this direction is broadly popular with the American public, not just Democrats. To make this work, Hillary has to have a way to prime the pump for more growth. This is where the work gets harder.

The heart of Teixeira’s argument and it’s worth remembering if she becomes President is that we should,

“Expect Mrs. Clinton to move aggressively to strike bargains that advance key parts of her program, especially those that would directly boost growth in the short run. Reflecting this priority, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly said that during her first 100 days she would call upon Congress to dramatically increase spending on roads, bridges and other public works, including to provide universal broadband and build a clean energy grid. Her $275 billion program, if implemented, would represent the greatest investment in American infrastructure since the development of the interstate highway system in the 1950s. Mrs. Clinton probably would also prioritize measures that directly benefit the economically squeezed, like raising the minimum wage and mandating paid family leave.”

T-shirts saying “Build Infrastructure, Vote Hillary” may not seem like a catchy slogan, but it might wrong foot the Republicans and catch them in the bind of their own base, including the angry and entitled white voters, who want to see this kind of economic interference that delivers growth and visible progress.

This will be worth watching way past November.