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Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Trump Presidency radicalising his Democrat opposition

If a former reality star, albeit a rather rich and brash one, can take the Republican establishment by storm and win the White House, then why can't others do the same?

It is fair to say that Trump has both polarised and radicalised American politics in a way not seen since Nixon won the White House in the middle of widespread protests over the Vietnam war.

But the most interesting manifestation of this phenomena is not in the Republican Party, many of whose politicians appear to have conceded their principles to Trump's dystopian agenda, but amongst Democrats, where a new wave of candidates are taking on the establishment and demanding that their party stop compromising and bowing down to the President.

The Independent carries an interesting article about these grassroot activists who have decided that it is time to throw out the old and tired establishment in the Democratic Party. Their mood is summed up by Congressional challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who believes the Democratic Party could be “setting the country up for another disaster” if it does not get more progressive candidates on the ballot for crucial November midterm elections, with the party seeking to wrestle back control of Congress.

She is taking on Joe Crowley, who has been a US House member for the 14th Congressional district running through the New York boroughs of the Bronx and Queens, for 20 years:

Pure determination and a solid background in political organising for, among others, Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run has taken Ms Ocasio-Cortez from campaigning between shifts as a waitress to growing name recognition on the national stage. Her opponent has labelled her a 'Sanders Democrat,' which Ms Ocasio-Cortez believes is "divisive and patronising" – although both Sanders and herself champion Medicare for all, debt free university education, higher minimum wages, and labour unions.

But the challenger knows the mission is bigger than just her own goals.

“I see myself as a toehold. I know change has to come from inside and outside the House chamber so it’s not about me as an individual but about a movement," she said.

That seems to be true for the entire wave of progressive Democrat candidates who are challenging establishment, who do not differ much from their opponents in terms of policy: LGBTQ rights, women’s equality, gun control reform, and improving public education, but feel more voices should be heard. 

Her determination to change the discourse in American politics is reflected in the remarks by Ayanna Pressley, who is running for US Congress in Massachusetts:

Ms Pressley worked for Congressman Joseph Kennedy II and Senator John Kerry before becoming the first woman of colour to be elected to the Boston City Council – she is ready to take things to the next level. “We need a different brand of leadership,” she said, adding that the party in Massachusetts, and the national party as a whole has “been so focused on the white working class, we’re trading our heart for our soul”.

“We don’t have to be in this crisis of faith... we have to keep pushing,” Ms Pressley said of the aftermath of the 2016 election.

“Innovating and legislating should not be abdicated because we are not the majority,” Ms Pressley said, pointing to a similar sentiment from Ms Ocasio-Cortez who thinks her opponent and other established Democrats have been facing a “Trumpist defeatism”.

If this feels like a turning point in American politics then maybe it is. Those fighting for change are not taking to the streets as their forebears did when protesting against Vietnam, they are looking to change things from within.

It is an orderly insurgency that if it succeeds in getting a Democratic majority in Congress made up of this new wave of politicians, could well turn the tide against Trump and his right-wing popularism.
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