What’s next for the Democratic Party?
1968 resonates with 2016 more than any other primary cycle in the last hundred years. Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy shook the political establishment with their anti-vietnams rhetoric, so much so that it forced President Lyndon Johnson to end his bid for re election. Despite not winning a single primary that year party bosses swayed delegates to give the nomination to Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Chicago was chaos and liberal/leftist voters left betrayed by the party they had hope could change. From the war mongering to the peace giving. The upstart of a second american revolution was dead. Nixon was elected and liberals were once again beaten. But what 1968 did was put the liberal ethic into the mainstream conversation, giving way to the campaigns of George McGovern, Jesse Jackson and beyond. This is happening again with the Sanders campaign and it’s only just beginning.
Liberalism has been dead for some time now. Since the Reagan Revolution along with the religious rights and big business takeover of much of the policy decisions at the federal level, liberal candidacies have been footnotes at best. The liberal wing of the Democratic party has not seen a competitor at a national level since George McGovern, who went on to get trounced by Nixon in the 72 election. Super delegates were put in place a decade later, after the disastrous 1980 primary between incumbent Jimmy Carter and challenger Ted Kennedy, to ensure that a grassroots campaign can’t trump the will of the party bosses (Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the current DNC chairwoman, used this as her excuse for the existence of super delegates this past cycle) Since then Democratic nominees have been centrist on nearly every major economic issue, whether it be trade, taxes, regulations, and hawks on many foreign policy endeavors such as arms deals to South America, economic blockades on Iraq, interventions in Libya and escalations in Afghanistan, etc. The fact that Bernie Sanders has won nearly twenty states this primary cycle, given the centrist policies of the Democratic Party for the last thirty years is a testament to the changing ideological spectrum this country has been undergoing for the last decade.
Younger voters are typically the scapegoat for this change in Democratic ideology. These younger thirty somethings who were angry at the Bush years, pissed at years of war and economic downturns, upset at the big wigs turning their favorite coffee shops into a Walmart. But it’s so much more than that. Bernie’s resonation with younger voters isn’t just some hippie outspokenness at the system and a rejection of what’s all the more realistic choice. Bernie’s genuinely, in the words of Don Draper, changed the conversation. The Democratic Party in the decades to come will hoist more liberal choices and make their candidacies mainstream. Bernie has made that happen. Hillary will be the nominee in Philadelphia. That much is certain. Bernie however will go down in history with Robert Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy and Jesse Jackson as a liberal alternative that changed the political landscape at a national level. Giving voice to those who were too afraid of speaking out to begin with. Making it cool to be a liberal again.