With or without Bernie Sanders, progressives are no longer afraid to make their voices heard
A Great Progressive Awakening has come to America. After many years of dormancy, the American Left has been re-animated into a strong political force. The Democratic Primary battle is living proof of this awakening, and no matter who the nominee becomes, the political landscape has changed.
While many will attribute Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for president as the reason the American Left has grown more active, the roots lie much deeper. This course was bound to happen, with or without Bernie. This isn’t to say that the resurgent activists on the Left would vote for any candidate. But, this election cycle has shown that the candidates themselves were bound to be affected by this progressive awakening.
Since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, being a liberal in America had been a taboo. Conservatives managed to effectively make the word “liberal” a dirty word. To be a liberal in America was tantamount to being un-American. This obviously led to a regressive period, in which even the so-called “liberals” in politics adhered to Reaganite principles.
Remember, while Bill Clinton was supposed to be a liberal, he was fairly conservative compared to most Democratic Presidents of the 20th Century. Clinton bought into the war on drugs, unbalanced welfare reform, and repeated the Reagan slogan that government was always the problem and never a solution.
Also, it was under Clinton that some of the most drastic deregulation to Wall Street took place. Glass-Steagle was repealed under Clinton’s watch. Even Obama, hailed as a new FDR in his early term, had to appear centrist to run, and even hailed Reagan as a “transformative” president.
The progressive taboo seems to be lifting, however. No longer are Democrats running away from the liberal label, and in fact seem to be embracing it. Republicans always run on platforms of who is the most conservative, but for years Democrats shied away from running as liberals for fear of the social taboo conservatives placed on that term. This is not the case in 2016, however.
Bernie Sanders did not create this progressive awakening. He is merely tapping into a long brewing sentiment. Bernie has proved that you can actually run as a real progressive and be successful. The main base of this is a rejuvenated activist Left, which at last feels they have an unashamed progressive to rally behind.
This was bound to happen, especially since most liberals have grown tired of holding their nose for centrist Democrats easily bought by dirty money. Because of this progressive awakening, Hillary Clinton has to run much further to the left than she did in 2008, just to keep up with Bernie Sanders.
It also will be very difficult to convince this re-animated Left to hold their nose again. The reason Bernie is doing so well is that Bernie has never had to mold his opinions based on outside factors. He’s always been a progressive, and has never pretended to be anything else. His career is based on years of activism inside and outside of DC. If the Democratic Party establishment thinks this new left will simply bow its head and vote for another establishment candidate, they are in for a huge surprise.