There is No Left in Political Debate Anymore
Updated: Oct 17, 2018
My good friend Shawn asked me several weeks back to explore....
Why politicians ought to consider pushing for a more medium platform rather than pushing far to one extreme or another. This may not be your belief, but it is an idea I'd like to see explored.
I've been ruminating off and on about his question since he posted it to me in a comment to another post. Shawn's one of the brightest people I know, but his framing of the question exposes a mis-framing of the issue I think he's trying to get at.
Most people see the problem with government and politics today as a question of right and left not being able to get together on common ground to address important issues of the day. I'd argue the problem is a result of the entire political spectrum in D.C. (and elsewhere) shifting to the right. In public political discourse, there is no "left" represented. Instead, the "left" Shawn refers to isn't represented at all.
The public, I think, sees Democrats and Republicans arguing over how best to maintain the political and corporate elite while addressing critical issues affecting working and middle-class folks. Seeing this battle play out via the news media pitting middle-Democrats and right-Republicans against each other. Democrats blame Republicans. Conservatives blame Democrats and nothing gets done. The public is fed up.
So, political debates today are framed with Democrats on one side and the Republican/Tea Party on the other. The problem is the Democrats represent "the medium platform" Shawn refers to. And the GOP represents the "right."
You can look at any debated issue and see this played out.
The budget: In the last several years, there has been some press coverage on budgets proposed by the President, the Republican leadership, and the Tea Party. Did you know that in each instance the Congressional Progressive Caucus (the "left") also introduced a budget? My guess is no.
Guns: Republicans blame criminals, crazy people, and terrorists for gun violence. They advocate for few (or no) regulation or oversight of firearms. And they love conceal-carry laws. Democrats, representing the counter position by the news media, want some increased regulation. They generally oppose conceal-carry laws, and want to use the terrorist "no-fly" list as a basis for denying people the right to buy a gun.
There's virtually no discussion about a broad ban on hand guns and assault weapons, purchase of ammunition, etc.
Healthcare reform: There was Obama's middle position of public-subsidized private insurance versus... well, the Republicans didn't have an alternative other than to let everyone fend for themselves. But the "left" position, where was it? It didn't exist. Neither politicians in D.C. nor the news media discussed a single-payer (Medicare for All) option.
Climate change: The GOP, Tea Party folks won't even acknowledge that it exists. Democrats decry Republican denial on the issue, but Obama has done little to strengthen international agreements on emissions reduction. Exploratory drilling in domestic waters has increased during his administration.
And both Obama and Clinton have, implicitly if not explicitly, been supportive of ongoing coal mining and "fracking." This year the plant reached the 400ppm atmospheric CO2 milestone for the first time in 4 million years.
Again, no serious discussion of "left" solutions have received any attention or debate.
Economic justice: Democrats nibble around the edges. $12 minimum wage. Paying lip-service to organized labor in election years, while pushing (or quietly supporting) trade agreements that undermine labor law and hand huge concessions to the corporate elite. Bailing out Wall Street and "too-big-to-fail" banks, while doing little to nothing to bail out working class America.
Republicans want everyone to make their own way, unless they are filthy right, in which case they get tax breaks and slack regulations.
Only here, because of Bernie Sanders' Presidential bid, have we seen the needle move just a little to the left. $15 instead of $12 minimum wage. Free college tuition, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and strong labor protections. And these received minimum coverage during the primary season. From where I sit, those are all squarely on the "left" of the political spectrum.
It's not a "medium platform" that people are clamoring for. It's not a "medium platform" that will realign American politics and institutional politicians. Rather, it is a corrective shift back to the left that is needed.
This year we've watched as the GOP has imploded under the weight of Donald Trump as their nominee. We've seen anemic enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton among Democrats (except as an alternative to Trump). One article I read referred to this year's Presidential race as an "unpopularity contest."
From the beginning, you had Donald Trump (and Ted Cruz) representing the far right. You had Hillary Clinton representing the center. You and Bernie Sanders (and Jill Stein) representing the left.
Network news media was basically all Trump all the time, because he was so "entertaining." Hillary received little coverage because it was just a given that she was going to be the Democratic nominee. And Bernie only seemed to receive coverage when the media covered an overflowing-crowd event, or commented on his record-breaking fundraising. His issues were cast aside as crazy or so far afield as to be barely worth mentioning.
So, the problem with American politics isn't an uncompromising left or right. The problem is there's no one representing the left anymore. They've all been squeezed out by disappointing corporate moderates and right-wing... racist-fascists.