Democratic Party, progressive movement must enact populist platform, uphold rhetorical promises
In the wake of the nail-biting 2022 midterm elections, where a conservative majority in the United States Senate was narrowly avoided, tensions are running high.
It seems that every day different threats to human rights, civil liberties and democracy are cropping up, threatening to degrade the safety and happiness of people both inside and outside of the United States. The thought is exhausting, and there are moments where it feels like crawling under a log in the woods might be a better option. However, no matter how many hateful politicians, people and pieces of legislation get thrown at us, the only thing which could ever break the progressive movement would be the loss of hope.
After the increased rise in rightwing populism under the Trump administration, it feels as if the situation is growing very dark. American politics have always been prone to paranoia. In an era where we should be progressing, we are instead having to fight off a spike in right-wing authoritarianism.
What does not help is that the Democratic Party has been gridlocked by corruption, uncertainty and haplessness for the past few years and is hamstringing progressive actors in the process. It seems that when the Republican National Committee (RNC) started accusing everyone left of center of being a pedophilic, satan-worshiping communist, the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) best response was to curl into a ball, pee themselves and hope that they would not get kicked too much.
A “return to normal politics” is not just foolish, it is impossible. Once the ethno-nationalistic right-wing populism switch gets flipped, it does not get flipped back easily. So what should be done about this? First we need to take a big, deep breath. Our best work comes when we are focused, realistic and diligent. I do not blame anyone who is feeling discouraged. There have been many soul-crushing moments in the past years. It can be hard to feel emboldened during times like this. I am not saying, “Oh, you just need to suck it up.” In fact, I think we need to do quite the opposite. Being honest with ourselves and others about how we are feeling is paramount to building up strength, even when we are scared, sad or unsure.
We may have lost some battles, but we have not lost the war. Not to mention, Gen Z is easily one of the most politically fierce generations in recent American history, meaning that if we put our minds to something there is a good chance we can succeed.
A significant danger posed to the progressive movement is cynicism. Looking at the current political climate, the question “can any of this even be changed?” is a very legitimate concern. Sometimes people do not feel that the answer is yes, which is understandable. However, when a person begins trying to convince others that the situation is doomed and that it is useless to fight, and they reject the notion that progress is possible, their cynicism becomes a self-fulfilling threat.
There is too much at risk for us to throw in the towel. It can be hard to have hope sometimes, but it is a key component in this fight. Hope is not something that is given to us by some outside source. It is cultivated within us and helps us endure hard situations. Even though cynicism is satisfying for a moment, it degrades collective hope and energy, which are the only things that keep the machine going.
On a broader level, if the DNC or even a separate progressive party is going to succeed in the future there need to be some significant changes. Rather than rising to the challenge when the RNC went absolutely feral, the DNC embraced a limp, sickly style of moderate politics which did nothing except disenfranchise possible voters. The whole “at least we are not republicans” message that they have been trying to hammer home since 2016 is not going to get us anywhere. The DNC needs to embody left-wing populist ideals such as universal healthcare, strong labor unions and broadened support for the lower class. Rhetoric must be upheld by action. People need to be shown that there is hope for change, regardless of whether or not the Republican Party is consuming itself like some kind of nightmarish insect.
We need to remain hopeful and realistic about what we can do. We are not about to change the world tomorrow, but that does not mean we cannot work towards something more beautiful and more caring than the brutal system we have right now. There are still many incredible things worth fighting for, and so long as we remember and cherish them, then I personally have a lot of faith in the good we can achieve.