In Defying the Odds, we discuss the Sanders candidacy and the leftward drift of the Democratic Party.
What worries some Democratic elders, though, is that activists will harbor unrealistic expectations of what sort of policies newly elected progressive lawmakers can push through in a still-divided capital.
“They say to new members, ‘You won because of us,’” said John A. Lawrence, former chief of staff to Ms. Pelosi and the author of a new book on the so-called Watergate Babies. “Actually no, typically you win because you were able to win moderate voters disgusted with incumbents.”
There is also a group of younger Democrats uneasy about the party drifting too far left.
Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana said he understood that Democratic voters were “furious and scared at the same time,” but he also said he wished his party had a moderating influence to counter Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the democratic socialist who has been at the front end of the party’s turn left.
“Bernie is fighting for his principles on what direction the party should go,” he said, “but we don’t really have anybody doing it on behalf of moderates and other Democrats. It has become a one-sided conversation.”
There is no question that Democratic leaders have been tugged toward a brand of more unadulterated progressivism. But there are fewer levers of power at their disposal to impose discipline or tilt their proposals toward the political center. They lack legislative earmarks to hand out, or withhold, and their ability to raise large sums of money matters less in an era in which liberal fund-raising is moving online.
And with the decline of unions, one of the last pillars of top-down authority in their coalition is on the wane. The public-sector unions stung by last week’s court decision had been one the movement’s remaining power centers.