The Magazine

A Democratic ‘Civil War’?

Dec 16, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 14 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The Scrapbook has always observed that while Newton’s Third Law of Motion—“to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”—is true of the physical world, it does not always apply to the political universe.

Landov

Landov

Consider, for example, these stirrings among the faithful of the Democratic party. In a story headlined “Democratic Party feeling heat from the political left” (Dec. 1), the Washington Post reports that “as Obama struggles to achieve his second-term domestic agenda, a more liberal and populist voice is emerging within a Democratic Party already looking ahead to the next presidential election.” 

Such as? Well, Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future complains about “real things in the economy that Democrats have been too timid to address,” and John Podesta of the Center for American Progress laments that “all the gains .  .  . to fight poverty and reduce the poverty level during the Clinton administration in which I served have been washed away.” 

Nor are discontented Democrats merely venting to the Post. Retiring senator Tom Harkin of Iowa predicts that “there’s going to be a big-time populist push on whoever’s running for office to espouse .  .  . progressive policies.” And nobody doubts which populist is expected to do the pushing: freshman senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. 

To be sure, Senator Warren disclaims any interest in running for the presidency in 2016. But as the Boston Globe reports (Dec. 5), she “has won the hearts of liberals across the country with a full-throated embrace of government as an instrument to combat income inequality against a system that is ‘rigged’ for the rich and powerful.” And if Warren is hesitant, her socialist neighbor Bernie Sanders is not: According to one left-wing website, the Vermont senator is prepared to seek the presidency to fight “income inequality, global warming, unemployment, Citizens United, the danger to democracy from oligarchic rule [and] media silence on everything important to the country.”

All of which, of course, makes The Scrapbook very happy. For if increasing numbers of Democrats believe that oligarchic rule and global warming are winning issues for their party, we won’t discourage them at all. But the interesting question is how the press will report the trend. 

When the Republican party feels pressure from its right, the media are swift to declare that the GOP has been effectively conquered by crazies, and that the resulting “civil war” between “moderates” and “radicals” has rendered the Grand Old Party obsolete. So our suspicion is that, when the left exerts pressure on the Democrats next year, the process will appear to the mainstream media to be—well, somehow less destructive, more benign. Instead of the lunatics storming the asylum, or “ideologues” supplanting the “centrists” of yore, a leftward lurch will be seen as America’s progressive party returning to its roots, or a second infusion of hope and change. 

Or maybe not. We’ll see.

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