Establishment-Style Republican Measures Versus Trump-Style Populism
Thanks for your thoughtful response, Caleb. You raise some crucial points that, as you seem to acknowledge, were outside of the focus of my piece.
I focused on establishment-style Republican measures because there is a significant faction of the Democratic Party, including parts of the leadership, that are willing to support them.
A rightward shift in politics — spurred to an even greater extent by Donald Trump’s rise to power — has intensified tension within the Democratic Party. The moderate Democrats are pulled in a much more conservative direction while the base of the party pulls new representatives in the House in a progressive or even socialist direction.
These traditional Republican-style establishment policies are where I suspect Biden would seek common ground, regardless of whether they can address basic human needs or help us truly confront the threat of climate change, etc.
Now, you raise culture war issues. That is truly important. We see several bills in states attempting to ban abortion. Then there is the issue of undocumented immigrants and asylum-seeking. You’re right to ask how that will influence voters and how they may respond to identity politics.
Democratic politicians are not immune to siding with Republicans on issues that stem from what Republicans would describe as their “traditional American values.” We see politicians from Nancy Pelosi to Bernie Sanders, who have been unwilling to lay down a marker and say if you want to be in the Democratic Party, you have to be pro-choice. They’ve embraced a big tent philosophy that dilutes their ability to stand united because they want to be all things to all people and believe that’s the answer to peeling people away from Trump.
“What about homelessness? Does the public think it’s ok to allow the homeless to sleep in any public square?”
That is a fair point too. How are people speaking with clarity on this issue because business interests, elected representatives, and even parts of the liberal class have enabled homeless evictions and backed laws that criminalize homeless individuals without doing anything meaningful to create affordable housing. Democrats tend to back these Silicon Valley or Big Tech companies that are hugely responsible for gentrification, which raises rents and forces residents out of communities.
To what you write on climate change measures that Americans are willing to support, this is the main issue. There are plenty of news reports about the threats that the entire planet faces. As the most powerful country in the world, Americans have a luxury, if the government can maintain geopolitical dominance. They can pass off many of the worst impacts to citizens of countries in South America and Africa, which is largely what is happening now.
Of course, that can only insulate us from the reality of climate change for so long. We still will face natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, heat waves, polar vortex temperatures, etc). The next crucial step is molding a consensus or shifting the consensus. I’m not saying $5.00/gallon is the solution. That barely begins to address the systemic changes that have to be made.
A huge step the country could take would be to demilitarize and reduce our U.S. military. The military is one if not the chief polluter in the world. After all, we have somewhere around 800-1000 military bases. But Americans love their military. So what do we do? We’ll have to talk to each other about how we have a choice because I think we’re going to have to choose so this planet remains livable for future generations.
By focusing on the classic Left-Right splits of the 1990s, i believe you are missing some of the real fracture points of today’s politics. I suspect Biden represents a nostalgia for when the Democrats had good politicians at the helm who could triangulate to a point where most of the country was with them and who could reach across the aisle and get things done. They really did accomplish much and they were very popular. Whether this approach can work in today’s divisive climate is an open question, but I’m very skeptical.
I may have overlooked fracture points, but then again, you’re next sentence on Biden essentially states the reason why I focused so exclusively on this split, which is crucial to understanding Biden as a Democratic politician.
I am skeptical to of whether this approach can work. More importantly, I’m certain that it will not serve those who recognize the stakes for our planet. Whether someone can get things done or not is largely meaningless. What will that person get done is what should count. Now, you can say the things I think counts are different than what a majority of voters favor, and maybe you’re right. But those of us who recognize what should be supported ought to quit letting polls set the confines of the possible, particularly in our political conversations with each other.
Thanks again for your response.