In a recent interview, Senator Claire McCaskill acknowledged that she will likely face a primary challenger from her left in 2018. McCaskill was a strong proponent of Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, but has been on the receiving end of liberal outrage lately for her votes to confirm many of President Trump’s cabinet appointees.
McCaskill’s dilemma is not unique. Ever since Hillary Clinton’s defeat, her allies have occupied a sort of political no man’s land—detested by the right and completely out of step with the newly-mobilized Democratic base. A few weeks ago, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who many saw as a potential presidential candidate, was dragged over the coals for voting against an amendment proposed by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to allow the import of drugs from Canada.
These concerns are well-founded. Progressives across the country are running for office and, as McCaskill implied, looking to displace elected Democrats. ‘Berniecrats’ have already scored their first victory, in California’s Democratic Assembly District Delegate Elections, which determines the leadership of the party.
This new reality has been devastating to the Clinton crowd which has always been so certain that it was on “the right side of history” because they “lived it.” They saw the Reagan Revolution, so they’d “learned the hard way” that the U.S. was really a center-right country. They “knew” that change had to be incremental; hope paired with realistic expectations.
Now, they’re living in a world they do not understand, and are having trouble coping, which translates to some interesting confrontations. For example, then-DNC Chair candidate Tom Perez drew the ire of establishment mouthpiece and MSNBC commentator Joy Reid and her flock, when he publicly acknowledged that the DNC had not acted neutrally during the primary. Though he only stated the obvious, Reid and others charged that no evidence existed of “rigging.” Perez quickly backed down.
The Young Turks (TYT) reporter Jordan Chariton, whose fact check prompted Reid to backtrack on her point and instead argue that the bias did not impact the outcome, spoke to Paste about the incident.
“I think Joy Reid is probably a nice person who just doesn’t know any better about the real mood of the country,” Chariton remarked. “She lives in the cable news, follow-the-horse-race bubble that is inherently disconnected from what Americans actually care about . . . Frankly, folks like her have a diminishing voice and audience, so they will become less and less relevant as the years go on.”
He’s not wrong, and Clinton Democrats know it. Many are now calling for unity in the hopes of avoiding discussions about their political wisdom, and moving on from 2016 as quickly as possible. It is their only hope to maintain influence over the party. This sentiment is so perfectly captured in the following tweet by notorious establishment troll Sally Albright:
What Albright and her lot do not understand, however, is that the point of being able to make deals has long since passed. The 2016 election was a tipping point because it stripped away Barack Obama's mythos and revealed just how bankrupt the Democratic establishment is—obsessed with strong personalities and platitudes, but devoid of ideology. The same Democrats who had once railed against Mitt Romney for his ties to Wall Street relied on identity dog whistles to smear critics of Hillary Clinton's paid private speeches for Goldman Sachs. There is no coming back from that.
Still, Clinton Democrats continue to stand in the way of change. When confronted about her tweet, Ms. Albright responded with the following pledge:
Her words echo those of former Communications Director for Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated presidential campaign Jennifer Palmieri, who, in an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd declared, “Don’t assume that the answer to big crowds is moving policy to the left.”
But the pressure establishment types are feeling isn’t going to go anywhere.
Despite their recalcitrance, Clinton Democrats have no clear path to victory. Perhaps people like Palmieri and Albright think they can simply wait for the GOP to implode but recognize that their jobs depend on defeating the left. Perhaps the goal is to fight long enough to dissuade progressives from remaining and participating in Democratic Party politics. After all, it is no secret that the left has been factionalized and that those undercurrents are still there (just google ”#DemExit”).
Whatever the reason(s) may be, talk of unity between the left and center left is premature. Power must first change hands. Only after progressives have ousted neoliberals like McCaskill in the 2018 primaries—and elected new party leadership—can there be a united Democratic Party. It will then fall on Clinton Democrats to get in line. Only then will there be a real opposition to the GOP now controlling both houses of Congress, the Presidency, a majority of governorships, and the most state legislatures it has since the Civil War, placing it in a strong position to once again control the redrawing of House districts in 2020.
The clock is ticking.