There’s No Such Thing as a Moderate Change-Maker

Listen to the people, stop blaming “radicals” and forge ahead on progressive change

The Democratic moderate has failed. He failed when he praised stability over progress. He failed when he referred to the Democratic progressive as a dividing force. Instead of telling Americans what they don’t need in a candidate, it is time for Democrats to follow through on providing Americans with the help they do need to survive.

Democrats are weak in the U.S. House of Representatives and are on the brink of losing their majority. Rather than bolstering their approval ratings by following through on radically-progressive yet exceedingly-popular campaign promises, many Democrats have chosen to use their negative congressional position to sow fear of the unknown among constituents. In one of my own encounters within the political space, I witnessed a moderate unduly claiming that getting behind him, the incumbent, was a surer way to ensure the maintenance of a Democratic congressional majority. His race was deemed safely democratic, yet he was keen on making other Democratic contenders out to be less feasible than him. 

When Americans go to vote in safely blue or red districts, most are no longer voting for a political party in a competitive district. Most are no longer concerned about blank statements by politicians trying to win solely with identity politics. They are voting for the candidate based on their respect for the struggle endured by their constituents. They are voting for those who value their masses over a few big donors. They are not voting based on partisan rivalries. They are instead voting on what candidate’s promises cater best to them. Voters are not dividing a party by standing beside one candidate over an incumbent, both of whom are Democrats. They are instead writing the future of the party’s political movement towards the left. They are gradually redefining what it means to be a Democrat based on their needs in the 21st century. 

Instead of focusing on the progressive label of primary challengers, moderate Democrat incumbents must start looking at the issues their challengers amplify. Some representatives have done just that. Whether it is to run against progressives or to choose a successor who may lean left of them, some moderates are open to being genuinely receptive to the people in their constituency. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson is precisely one of these people. A mainstream Democrat with a relatively-progressive political record, this lawmaker of 30 years endorsed Jasmine Crockett, a civil rights attorney with the backing of multiple leftist groups. More consequentially, taking inspiration from competitors like Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden has shifted considerably left (though perhaps not enough) on programs such as student loan forgiveness. Coming to the aid of ordinary Americans over Big Pharma and big money is a popular idea, supported by 80% of us according to Gallup.

Instead of starting at a compromise on bills bolstering voting rights and citizens’ economic power, Democrats can work down to that. The idea that the most progressive solution will shut down any room for legislative discussion with conservatives is an archaic one, considering the radically-racist legislation that is breezing through legislative bodies nationwide. The conservative position is to be skeptical of progress. They will always say, “No!” to reform. Moderate lawmakers like Senator Joe Manchin fail to realize this fact. 

Being a good lawmaker is important, but running an election where you rely more on excusing your moderate positioning to just “doing your job” and “passing bills” is preposterous. A bill that helps no one is just a pretty piece of paper. Representing people is an elected official’s primary job. That is why they are elected.

It is time for moderate Democrats to drop this charade of trying to bring progress slowly. It is time for them to stop villainizing those who can’t afford to wait. Democrats were elected to follow through on their promises, mainly of which have become exceedingly progressive due to the needs of the youth. Don’t treat progressives as rebels, understand their vision and maybe, just maybe, adopt some of it as your own.

Art by Sparky Mitra for UCSD Guardian.