If moderates decide that this week’s results represent the beginning of just such a backlash, they may force the party to abandon its plans and retreat into a defensive crouch.
This would be an enormous mistake. If Democrats are to reverse their fortunes, they have to be bold and rack up big accomplishments. Rather than backing off expansive legislation, they should double down on it. If Democrats pass an ambitious package to fight poverty, expand healthcare, assist families with childcare expenses, and introduce paid family and medical leave, there will be no mistaking what they stand for. Republicans, meanwhile, will be left arguing against programs that are standard throughout the developed world and – more importantly – popular in the United States as well.
Nor is there much reason to believe that Democrats’ recent electoral setbacks resulted from being too progressive. Although a socialist candidate for Buffalo mayor lost out to her moderate rival and a police reform measure failed in Minneapolis, these results reveal nothing about the popularity of the party’s mainstream economic agenda. Democrats struggled not because they appear too progressive, but because, after months of infighting, they don’t appear to stand for anything.