Some of the biggest names in left-wing politics – Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren – have had a relatively quiet campaign season. Despite reputations as prodigious fundraisers, with an ardent base of die-hard supporters, progressive politicians like Sanders have mostly avoided campaigning in support of fellow Democrats in the lead-up to next week’s midterm election. Why? Because progressives understand that, in the current political climate, their presence could do more harm than good for fellow Democrats.
Their absence from the campaign trail is an implicit acknowledgment that progressives are out of vogue right now. Republicans are surging, in large part because moderates – even moderate Democrats – are exhausted with certain elements of the progressive agenda.
For one, moderates, indeed a large portion of the country, are not amused with the “wokeness” which has come to be closely associated with the left. While the left has gone all-in on pronouns and cancellations and monthlong celebrations of X, Y, or Z ethnicity, much of the country is frustrated with the proliferation of wokeness, and its increasing creep into our institutions. The right has explicitly denounced wokeness – sometimes clumsily, sometimes cleverly – and citizens are responding favorably.
More important, the left overstepped with the “Defund the Police” push in 2020. The backlash is arriving, fueled both by cultural dispositions and rising crime rates. Citizens want their cities to have robust police forces, because most citizens associate a robust police force with being safer. Many citizens believe that left-wing efforts to reduce police forces will result in citizens being less safe. Naturally, citizens are gravitating towards right-wing candidates, in large part because the right is viewed as more effective on crime. And with crime rates rising nationally, citizens want police on the streets. Mostly, citizens are not attracted to the left’s alternative proposals that swap cops for social workers, addiction services, anti-bias training, etc. People want cops.
There’s more of course, driving the left’s unpopularity. Some criticisms are legitimate, others are not – like efforts to paint left-wing economic policies as “socialist.” But regardless of the legitimacy, the messaging has stuck. The result is that the left is out of fashion. Big name left-wing politicians, associated with deeply unpopular agenda items, are not welcome at many ongoing Democratic campaigns.
“I’m never gonna go into a district if somebody doesn’t want me there,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal said.
Elizabeth Warren, one of the left’s most prominent figures – a senator and a former presidential candidate – was recently campaigning in Wisconsin on behalf of Democratic Senate nominee Mandela Barnes. Warren led a Madison rally where she reminded the crowd that Barnes was “committed to making this economy work for everyone” and that Barnes was the best chance to “save democracy.”
Curiously, however, Barnes was not present for the rally. He cited a scheduling conflict. He did join Warren later in the day for a closed-press fundraiser. The incident speaks loudly to public perceptions of progressives – and to inter-party perceptions of progressives. Two years ago, a senatorial aspirant like Mandela Barnes would have been honored to receive Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail. Now he has a scheduling conflict.
The tragedy of it all is that the progressives have a slew of highly redeemable agenda items. Unfortunately, the commendable priorities – like rebuilding the middle class, monopoly-busting, emphasizing diplomacy over war, and fighting climate change – have become tainted in the eyes of the moderate majority. This is because of other agenda items that are far harder to redeem – like enforcing a victim-oppressor scheme on every possible interaction, defunding police forces, or promoting the premise that some people don’t have a gender.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.
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