The Progressivism Is the Problem

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks an outdoor campaign rally in Austin, Texas, February 23, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

This morning, I argued that Bernie Sanders devotees use misleading public-polling data to overstate the degree to which the Sanders agenda is consonant with the popular will. David Leonhardt of the New York Times writes that a warped sense of public opinion among party activists has hurt the electoral prospects of Democratic candidates:

You can see this pattern today in the ways that many progressive activists misread public opinion. Their answer to almost every question of political strategy is to insist that Americans are a profoundly progressive people who haven’t yet been inspired to vote the way they think. The way to win, these progressives claim, is to go left, always.

He continues:

They often do so by pointing to polls with favorably worded, intricate questions — and by ignoring evidence to the contrary. Affirmative action, for example, typically loses ballot initiatives. Polls show that most Americans favor some abortion restrictions and oppose the elimination of private health insurance.

By designing campaign strategies for the America they want, rather than the one that exists, progressives have done a favor to their political opponents. They have refused to make tactical retreats, which is why they keep losing.

The piece is worth reading, though I think Leonhardt underestimates the extent to which certain issues are beyond compromise for Democratic candidates. So long as Democrats are tethered to the belief that border enforcement is racist per se, ceding ground on immigration policy is less a matter of triangulation than it is a tacit embrace of bigotry. Abortion restrictions, too: If health care is a human right and abortion is health care, the transitive property leaves Democrats without much room to court pro-lifers.

Their philosophy is the problem, in other words.

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