Something Happened

Barack Obama, then-United States Senator from Illinois.

When Democratic candidate Barack Obama became President-elect Barack Obama, something happened to his political party: the Democratic Party.

Not seen since the era of Senators Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, the progressive movement roared back into mainstream politics and took the spotlight on the Democratic stage. Not only was the progressive moment part of the coalition that elected the first African American President, the movement led it.

Whatever one may think of the Obama Presidency since taking office, some of the fights progressives have taken on have seen results: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, and more. Because of these pieces of legislation being signed into law, it is this writer’s opinion that President Obama will be looked on favorably in history.

In past Democratic presidential primaries, very few of the candidates would take the mantle of being progressive. In 2000, it was Senator Bill Bradley. In 2004, both Governor Howard Dean and Congressman Dennis Kucinich shared the title. In 2008, both Senator Barack Obama and again Kucinich took to being the advocate on behalf of progressives. In 2004 and 2008, only a few presidential hopefuls accommodated the progressive movement. In 2016, however, that has changed.

Whether their records reveal it or not, everyone in the 2016 Democratic field now completely embraces the progressive title.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outright expressed herself as “a progressive who likes to get things done.”

Former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley affiliates himself, and his fellow Democrats, as progressive.

And, the Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, co-founded the largest Democratic caucus, the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Not in recent primary history have all the candidates pushed themselves as the progressive movement’s choice for the Democratic nominee. Now, whatever the candidates record may reveal otherwise, the very fact that this is happening to the Democratic Party is encouraging.

Something happens when the progressive movement takes lead of the Democratic Party. That something is the advancement of economic and political development, science, technology, and the changing of the societal state quo. In the past 80 years, progressives stood up, fought for, and worked with lawmakers willing to make necessary change. The victories of progressives are vast: Social Security, Clean Air Act, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start Program, Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the aforementioned acts signed by President Obama.

Going into 2016 with the idea that progressives are now leading the Democratic voting base, is something to take avenge of. Something happened when the Democratic Party nominated an Illinois progressive in 2008, as it did with a New York progressive in 1932. Progressives must now make that something happen again in 2016.

-Zac