Dear Commons Community,
An op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal by Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler, both affiliated with Third Way, questions whether populist, left of center Democrats can win national elections. It specifically posits that Democrats should avoid putting candidates such as Bill de Blasio, the Democratic mayor-elect of New York City, or Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, on national tickets:
“The Democratic Party should embrace the economic populism of New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Such economic populism, they argue, should be the guiding star for Democrats heading into 2016. Nothing would be more disastrous for Democrats.
While New Yorkers think of their city as the center of the universe, the last time its mayor won a race for governor or senator—let alone president—was 1869. For the past 144 years, what has happened in the Big Apple stayed in the Big Apple. Some liberals believe Sen. Warren would be the Democratic Party’s strongest presidential candidate in 2016. But what works in midnight-blue Massachusetts—a state that has had a Republican senator for a total of 152 weeks since 1979—hasn’t sold on a national level since 1960.
The political problems of liberal populism are bad enough. Worse are the actual policies proposed by left-wing populists. The movement relies on a potent “we can have it all” fantasy that goes something like this: If we force the wealthy to pay higher taxes (there are 300,000 tax filers who earn more than $1 million), close a few corporate tax loopholes, and break up some big banks then—presto!—we can pay for, and even expand, existing entitlements. Meanwhile, we can invest more deeply in K-12 education, infrastructure, health research, clean energy and more.”
“Third Way represents Americans in the “vital center” — those who believe in pragmatic solutions and principled compromise, but who too often are ignored in Washington.
Our mission is to advance moderate policy and political ideas. Our agenda includes: a series of grand economic bargains, a new approach to the climate crisis, progress on social issues like immigration reform, marriage for gay couples, tighter gun safety laws, and a credible alternative to neoconservative security policy.” Members of its honorary co-chairpersons are mostly past or present Democrats elected to national office such Gabrielle Giffords and Kathleen Sibelius.”
Cowen and Kessler raise an important issue on the practicality of winning an election. However, I am glad that we have officials such as de Blasio and Warren, who present populist agendas that counteract the extreme elements of the Republican Party. Both would be long-shots in 2016 or beyond for national office but they should not be reined in now. Their positions need to be heard in 2013.