By, Lowman S. Henry
Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.
In politics everything is relative.
What the mainstream media and Left-wing activists term the ‘far right’ at one time was the sensible center. For example, cutting tax rates to allow the private sector economy to flourish was once done by President John F. Kennedy. It was none other than President Bill Clinton who told congress “the era of big government is over.” Both ideas today are considered to be ‘far right’ positions.
It is not that the inherent sensibility of such policies have changed, rather it is the fact the Democrat Party has marched steadily Leftward, so much so that even the once extreme politics of George McGovern today would be considered too conservative for most Democrats.
The Democrats’ march to the extreme Left accelerated under the Presidency of Barack Obama whose political ideology was informed by the noted communist Frank Marshall Davis. Davis advocated, among other statist policies, universal health care which became the template for the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
Barack Obama would have been a transformative president had not he enacted most of his socialistic policies via executive order rather than by legislation. The election of Donald J. Trump as his successor allowed many of those policies to be reversed. That Hillary Clinton would not be chief executive and able to make the Obama policies a permanent part of the national fabric gave rise to the wave of outrage that has swept through the American Left.
That outrage has fueled the Democrat Party’s plunge into the abyss of socialism. The Millennial generation, which was not witness to the atrocities wrought by totalitarian regimes and who have not been taught the lessons of history by our public education system, seem especially susceptible to socialistic promises of free college educations and so-called “universal basic incomes.”
And so it was that a millennial, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, stunned the Democrat Party establishment by defeating Congressman Joseph Crowley in the recent New York primary. Ocasio-Cortez ran as an avowed socialist and since her victory sought to portray herself as the face of the party’s future.
Congressman Crowley was seen as the most likely successor to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who has been both legislatively and politically ineffective. Crowley’s defeat sent shock waves through party’s establishment who now fear the radical socialism of candidates like Ocasio-Cortez will upend its chances of reclaiming a House majority this November.
Another example of how far the party has strayed from the mainstream was seen recently in California where U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein was deemed insufficiently liberal by party activists. State Senator Kevin de Leon easily defeated her for the party’s endorsement. That vote was propelled by so-called “progressive activists” who have accomplished the improbable task of moving the California Democrat Party even further to the Left.
Here in Pennsylvania the Costa Family is an Allegheny County institution. Senator Jay Costa serves as Minority Leader in the state Senate. Cousins Dom and Paul Costa represent state House districts. In last May’s primary they were defeated by challengers who had the backing of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Likewise, Democrat Lt. Governor Mike Stack was defeated in his bid for re-nomination by the extreme Left-wing Mayor of Braddock John Fetterman. During a recent campaign visit to Pittsburgh the socialist U.S. Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, heaped praise on Fetterman. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Sanders told the assembled activists that Fetterman would “help usher in the Democratic Socialist agenda that he (Sanders) has been revolutionizing.”
Fetterman is now the running mate of incumbent Governor Tom Wolf. The Huffington Post has dubbed Wolf “the most liberal governor in America,” meaning state Democrats are running the most extreme Left-wing ticket they have ever nominated.
All this is playing out against the backdrop of a surging U.S. economy made possible by the pro-growth economic policies of the Trump Administration which include tax cuts and a roll-back of the regulatory excesses of the Obama years. With unemployment near record lows and Americans having more disposable income, the socialist agenda becomes less attractive to the middle of the political spectrum.
And so Democrats find themselves captive of their party’s most extremist elements precisely at a time the folly of their agenda is becoming more and more apparent to voters. Conservatives’ belief in equality of opportunity is proving to be successful. This makes the Left’s warm embrace of socialistic policies an electoral minefield for Democrats as the November elections approach.