The “progressive” (or ultra-liberal) wing of the Democratic Party is trying to push Hillary further to the left. They do this in a number of ways: by urging Elizabeth Warren to get into the presidential race; by threatening to support Bernie Sanders if he runs for president as an independent; by telling Hillary that they will not be able to support her with their work, wealth, and wisdom until she demonstrates that she has a truly progressive agenda.
For instance, Bill de Blasio, the progressive mayor of New York, an old friend of hers who was her campaign manager when she ran successfully for the U.S. Senate in 2000, was on Meet the Press recently and said he would not be endorsing her until she laid out a progressive “vision.”
What do the progressives desire? In the long run, I suppose, they want a strongly socialistic America in which the national economy, on both its production and consumption sides, will be directed from Washington — an America led by somebody very similar to de Blasio. But that greatly-to-be-desired consummation will have to wait for a few years, perhaps even many years. For the time being the desire of the progressive heart is more limited. Not full-fledged socialism, only some modest progress toward that glorious goal.
The great immediate concern of progressives has to do with economic inequality, inequalities of both wealth and income. It is a dreadful thing, progressives believe, that the rich are getting richer while the rest of us — the ninety-nine percent — are making little or no progress or are falling behind. Oligarchs flourish, Democrats stagnate.
If Hillary is to win the whole-hearted support of equality-loving progressives, she will have to exhibit a progressive “vision” — that is to say, she will have to unveil a plan for the federal government to begin the long and hard work of correcting this enormous social injustice.
If Hillary’s moderate supporters object that this is politically impossible, that such radicalism will alienate middle-class voters, progressives (like de Blasio) reply that this radicalism, so far from alienating middle-class voters, is precisely what will attract them.
For the middle class is hurting economically, and has been hurting for many years now. And is there anything the middle class is more concerned about than its economic status? Economic radicalism will please not just the typical progressive but the typical voter. It’s a winning strategy for 2016. By pushing Hillary in that direction, progressives are doing her a big favor. They are shoving her into the White House.
It is odd that ultra-liberals, and not just ultras but moderate liberals as well, assume that the average American, when it comes to thinking about politics and voting, is an egoist concerned above all things with his or her economic standing: “How much money am I making? How much do I have in the way of assets?”
I say it’s odd because that’s not how liberals themselves think, especially ultra-liberals. When it comes to politics, it’s true enough that they think a lot about economic issues (whether they think about these issues in an educated way is another matter). But they don’t think about these issues in a merely egoistic way. They worry about the economic well-being of others, especially minorities.
And liberals certainly don’t think about economic issues only. They are enormously concerned about all of the following: racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, the rights of illegal immigrants, gun violence, climate change, making the world safe for abortion and same-sex marriage, diminishing the pernicious moral influence of religion, especially Christianity.
Why is this? Well, liberals are moral elitists. Most Americans, they feel, are lowly materialists, concerned only about money and the things money can buy. But we liberals are made of finer stuff. We’re happy to talk about money when it’s a question of winning votes from the vulgar herd. But we know there are higher, more important things — like producing a moral-cultural revolution in America.