Top logo
An ongoing crisis summary to keep you informed, active, and sane. Written from a center-left perspective, focused on removing the threat of Trumpian autocracy. By Francis Hwang.

Day 465.

Will progressivism be a winning strategy for the Democratic Party?

April has been a shockingly progressive month for the Democratic Party, as leaders have rushed to endorse increasingly bold policies. Sens. Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand are now onboard with some form of a federal job guarantee, which would offer every American the option of a government job at a living wage. Gillibrand introduced legislation to turn the U.S. post office into a basic banking option for poor Americans. And Sen. Chuck Schumer proposed getting the federal government out of marijuana enforcement. Will the party go too far?

These proposals have little chance of being passed under a Republican-controlled Congress: They are efforts to reposition the Democratic Party for the November midterms and beyond. In them we are witnessing an attempted realignment of the party's political strategy.

Democratic Party leaders have long favored a cautious left-centrism in their electoral strategy: Push policy left enough to inspire loyalists, but not so far that you alienate undecideds in purple districts. However, a number of left activists increasingly believe that such tactics are now self-defeating, because you can lose more base voters than you can gain undecideds.

In one case, Sean McElwee of the Nation notes that millions of black voters do not turn out to vote, in part because they see the Democratic Party as a weak defender of their interests. "Unlike Republicans, who constantly feed their evangelical base," writes McElwee, "Democrats spend far too little time engaged in thinking about how to energize black voters." And regarding a jobs guarantee, McElwee cites data that such a policy is strongly positive with low-income voters, who turned out poorly in the 2016 election.

Of course, policy details still matter, and in the case of a job guarantee there are many details to be considered. Dylan Matthews of Vox gives a good rundown of the issues involved, including whether government employment is the best way to fix persistent unemployment, possible effects on inflation, and more.

But among the party's new base, the belief is increasingly that the current focus should be on campaigning, not on legislating. First, you speak to voters with bold, easily understood promises: In 2016, Sanders' free college plan helped him come with grasping distance of the party's nomination. Then, if you win a legislative majority, you can bear down on the details to pass the best possible law within the parameters of what had been promised.

Will the Democratic Party go too far to the left? Will it make promises it cannot responsibly keep? In this writer's amateur estimation, the party would do best to let progressives take the helm. We tried selling cautious change in 2016, and it failed. The time is right to be a party of big ideas again, to sell the American people on an ambitious vision for the role of government, and to prove that we stand for progress beyond just opposing Donald Trump.

Fair warning, though: If the Democratic Party takes this on, politics will only get larger, and grander, and perhaps a little crazier, in the months to come. Hold on tight.

Progress

For the third time, a federal judge ruled against the Trump administration's attempt to end DACA, calling the decision "virtually unexplained". However, the ruling was stayed for 90 days to give the Department of Homeland Security time to provide a more solid explanation for the change.

In the special election for Arizona's 8th Congressional District, the Republican candidate won by 5 points. But the Arizona 8th is a deep-red district, and this represents a 20-point swing in favor of Democrats.

The city of Seattle will vacate every misdemeanor marijuana conviction over the past few decades, six years after the state voted for legalization.

Maryland's governor signed a comprehensive gun-violence package into law: The measures include a ban on bump stocks and a "red flag" law allowing family members or law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily confiscate firearms from specific individuals.

A national memorial to lynching victims opened in Montgomery, Al. The memorial commemorates the more than 4,000 people who were lynched in America between 1877 and 1950.

Setbacks

The U.S. Border Patrol used fake statistics to report that assaults on Border Patrol officers had spiked in 2016.

The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has begun dismissing hundreds of civil rights complaints outright.

A judge in Pennsylvania is calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on people who walk into her courtroom, including a Guatemalan-born lawful permanent resident who was there to get married.

Alek Minassian, who killed 10 people with a van in Toronto, did so after pledging his allegiance to the "Incel Rebellion" in a Facebook post. "Incel" stands for "involuntarily celibate": Incels are men who gather online out of frustration that women will not have sex with them. Some incels take their beliefs to terroristic extremes: Another such case was of Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in Santa Barbara in 2014.