Has the Democratic Party really gone off the radical deep end?
It sometimes sounds like it from their fiery rhetoric, and the broad embrace of expansive visions like the Green New Deal. But in fact, the overwhelming majority of the serious candidates — Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Corey Booker — are traditional progressive reformers who would fall well within the recent Democratic mainstream. They have a variety of plans and proposals to solve America’s problems, but none have leveled a deep and fundamental critique of the way American society is organized.
A truly radical critique has really been articulated only by three major candidates. Two are well-known: Senators Sanders and Warren. These New England senators see America’s political economy as fundamentally corrupted by powerful corporate interests that have eaten away at the commonwealth. Fixing America’s problems, therefore, requires a fundamental rethinking of how that political economy works.
Sanders, the self-professed democratic socialist, sees the key solution as the expansion of the state. His trademark proposals — Medicare-for-all, free college, a federal jobs guarantee — all involve the government providing services directly to the citizenry. Warren, the self-professed progressive populist, sees the key solution as the use of the state to diffuse concentrated economic power. Her trademark proposals — a greatly invigorated anti-trust regime, replacing shareholder capitalism with a system of co-determination, and a progressive wealth tax — all involve using the government to cut private interests down to size and make them more responsive to stakeholders in the society at large.