In keeping with my 2020 primary plea, I’ll preface this post about Democratic politics by acknowledging that I’m leaning slightly towards Warren. Anyway, let’s talk about political opportunities. A while ago, some asshole with a blog noted:
…after decades of New Democrats, there is an ideological void in the Democratic Party. For those who are still angry at Senator Sanders for running against Clinton: you’re right, he shouldn’t have run. More accurately, he shouldn’t have had to run, because there should have been Democratic politicians who called for the positions he supported. But the only liberal Democratic option was a self-described 74 year-old socialist who really isn’t a Democratic Party member. After 25 years, give or take, of purging (even if it’s the polite purge of not hiring) liberal Democrats from positions of power, including entities like mainline think tanks, the only option left is the self-described socialists (who really don’t seem that socialist).
I’ve made a similar argument regarding Ocasio-Cortez. In other words, there is a political opportunity here for Democrats who can convincingly adopt these policies. Which brings us to something Ed at Gin and Tacos wrote about Sen. Sanders’ explicit support for striking LA teachers (boldface mine):
There is a certain subset of center-left or center-liberal people who have hatched a million strange conspiracy theories about Bernie Sanders, almost all of which have to do with Russian Propaganda, the Kremlin, Russia, Russians, and some sort of orchestrated (Russian) effort (by Russia) to create the impression that (Russian Operative) Mr. Sanders (a Russian) has a fan base when in reality he has none. In fairness to these folks, Sanders is not being treated differently – everything, in their new worldview, is a Russian plot. If something happens that is not fundamentally in line with their understanding of the world, Russia is behind it….
If you are interested in understanding why Bernie Sanders has the dedicated following he does, that [his support for striking teachers] is your explanation. Unlike any other Democratic could-be with a national profile, he regularly makes reference to organized labor. No one else with a similar level of visibility does. In fact, most other possible candidates or nationally recognized leaders in the party – even Warren, who is pretty far left – run away from labor (which current orthodoxy holds is a dinosaur from earlier days) or just pays lip service to it. They mention “unions” in the abstract when they want union donations, and that’s about it.
It strikes me as funny, but not incredible, that some people choose to ignore the very simple, obvious explanation – He talks about a thing some people like, and other people don’t talk about it! – in favor of something convoluted and sinister. Maybe it’s just more exciting that way. Maybe it helps them make sense of the world in some way I don’t understand.
These things simply do not need complicated explanations unless you go looking for one. Why do people like Beto? Well, he’s good looking, he’s good speaking to crowds, he’s pleasantly neutral (which allows people to project their own beliefs onto him), and he raised a lot of money. Why do people like Bernie? Despite his complete lack of personal charisma, he talks about things other candidates don’t, and there is a subset of voters who don’t care about candidate personality at all. Pretty simple…
I simply do not think it should be – can be – any kind of mystery to understand why he has a following. He does some simple things that other candidates and national political figures don’t. If other people did those things and were sincere about it, his fans would likely gravitate to those candidates as well.
Many older Democrats who have been in politics will have problems responding to this new political landscape because of their previous positions, such as much of the Democratic Party’s stand on education reform. There are opportunities here for those Democrats willing and able to seize them.