March 22, 2019

The Pragmatic Democrats

girl on swing

The mainstream news media has been referring to a certain group of Democratic voters as "pragmatic Democrats." Who are these pragmatic Democrats? According to this particular narrative, they are voters who are seeking the candidate with the best chance of beating Donald Trump, regardless of that candidate's progressive credentials. But the interesting thing about this narrative is that "pragmatic Democrat" has quickly become a proxy of sorts for referring to voters who are supporting establishment candidates (i.e., those we might describe as "moderate" or "centrist"). "Pragmatic Democrats" are frequently contrasted with "progressive Democrats," barely concealing the notion that only a moderate or centrist candidate can win.

I had hoped that the Democratic Party would have been wrestling with the centrist vs. progressive conflict ever since 2016 and that real progress would have been made long before now. If that happened, I am not seeing much evidence of it. I realize this will sound a bit conspiratorial, but I sometimes find myself thinking that the media narrative of the "pragmatic Democrat" seems almost as if it was deliberately crafted to undermine support for more progressive candidates.

Democratic voters are going to have some tough decisions ahead as we move into primary season. Does one support the candidate one thinks has the best chance of winning a general election against Trump or does one support the candidate one thinks has the best (i.e., most progressive) positions on the issues? For some voters, these may not be mutually exclusive. They may decide that the candidate with the best positions on the issues has the best chance of beating Trump. For others, it may come down to how they weigh ideology vs. electability.

At this point in time, I still know far too little about the growing pool of Democratic candidates to know how I might vote in the primary. I'm fairly confident some of those currently running will no longer be in the picture by then and equally confident that some not currently running will be running by then. But even if I knew that those running today would all be on the ballot, I do not know who I'd support. What I can say is that I think I could vote for any one of them in a general election against Trump. That does not mean I won't participate in the primary or that I do not care who wins the primary; it just means that I have not yet learned anything about any of those currently running that would lead me to refuse to vote for them if they were to win the primary.

As for our mainstream news media, it is beginning to look like they have learned nothing from 2016. They christened Hillary Clinton the "presumptive nominee" during the summer before the primaries and quickly began referring to her as "the first female president" well before primary voting had started. We all saw how that turned out. I wish they would avoid doing anything to even give the appearance of attempting to steer voters toward certain candidates or away from others. Inform us about the candidates, and let us decide.

In any case, it will be interesting to see how this shakes out. We have several very progressive candidates running and a few centrist/moderate candidates. Both groups will be narrowed down considerably as we near the primaries. I continue to think that Trump will most likely win a second term, but I'd love to be wrong. I'd also love to see the Democratic Party and Democratic voters manage to make it all the way to a general election without unnecessarily hurting their chances.