What separates young Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez from the congressional Democratic leadership, Ryan Grim argues in the Washington Post, is that the latter are still scarred by Reagan’s defeat of the liberals of his day. Shaped by that experience, Democrats such as Pelosi and Schumer have tried again and again to avoid riling up the right. They’ve reformed welfare, voted for the Iraq war, and hung back from endorsing Obama in 2008. Now they’re refusing to impeach Trump or call for Medicare for All or a Green New Deal. Grim contrasts them to younger progressives who have adapted to a new political environment in which the right is much weaker and the left has less reason to be scared.
There is probably something to Grim’s theory—progressives who have had the experience of overreaching and failing will have different reactions from those who haven’t. But there is less to it than he suggests. The case that Pelosi has been intimidated by Reagan’s shadow fits poorly with her record on several of the specific issues Grim mentions. She voted against welfare reform and the Iraq war and tacitly supported Obama in the 2008 primaries. (Schumer voted against welfare reform too.)
There are also other explanations for the leaders’ behavior. Maybe they noticed that Trump won in 2016, for example, or have seen the polls on impeachment and outlawing private health insurance.