The two primary political parties, Democrats and Republicans, are often referred to as “liberal” and “conservative.” All this really boils down to is approaches to economic and social policy. The Democrats, the liberal party, is primarily concerned with larger government legislation that provides aid to the working poor, and civil rights legislation. The Republicans, the conservative party, is primarily concerned with smaller government legislation that provides aid to businesses and corporations and keeping with traditional social values. However, these lines are actually not as cut and dry as one might think.
The Democratic Party can be divided into two different wings itself: the more centrist establishment Democrats and the progressive wing of the party. Establishment Democrats include people like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, whereas the progressive side includes people like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Pramila Jayapal. These two sides are often at odds with each other on how policy should be organized and paid for. Progressives believe in policies such as universal healthcare and expanded public education, and that government should provide these services to citizens. Establishment Democrats usually go with the word “affordable” to describe education and healthcare. The question of course: Why is there this divide within the Democratic party on this policy issue?
Simply put, the two parties are divided between liberal and conservative, but relative to an objective political spectrum, both parties are on the right. The modern Democratic Party is a conservative party, just left of the Republican Party. The Republican Party has fully embraced the far right and in an effort to have a big tent, the majority of the Democratic Party wants to play to the more “sensible” Republicans to try and win their vote. This naturally dilutes the water, so to speak, and pulls the Democratic Party further to the right rather than holding ground for overall progress. This is only exacerbated by establishment Democrats blaming progressives incorrectly for when they lose. It’s much harder for progressives to gain traction anywhere because they are constantly fighting both other Democrats and Republicans on policy issues.
Democrats need to learn from the past. There’s something of a cycle in American politics happening. Democrats take power by both chambers of Congress and the Presidency. Instead of enacting typical Democratic legislation when they have power, they him haw around about this or that. When they eventually lose because of this practice and doing nothing to help the material conditions of the American people, they blame progressives for being too extreme (when we have extreme problems). They pull progressives to the right of center with them to gain power again. Rinse and repeat. This cannot continue. We are facing multiple crises that need radical solutions, not neoliberal Band-Aids.
Democrats also need to learn from their present. The Democrats watered down some of the aid in their recent COVID relief bill because of Republican negotiation and even after the compromise, none of them in the Senate voted for it. Not a single one. This only proves that Democrats need to push through without Republican support. They must or they will lose both chambers of Congress in 2022. Elections have consequences, after all.