The Era of the the Third Way is Over - Why Is the Ground Shifting So Rapidly?

Stephen Rockwell • 17 February 2019
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Last week, I spoke of how the Democratic establishment has not fully comprehended the shifting political landscape leading to dismissing necessary public policy like the Green New Deal and billionaire candidates thinking they are well-suited to run for President.  The Democratic Party must fully acknowledge that the Era of the the Third Way of Clinton/Blair-like centrism is over.  The Era of co-opting and softening conservative positions has been over for quite some time, but the timidity of Democratic leaders and the candidacy of Hillary Clinton kept such centrism wrapped within the feminist package of the goal of a woman President.  The truth is pro-Wall Street economic policy will not fly in today's Democratic Party.  Why has this shift happened so rapidly?

The Groundswell of Organizing and Activism Creating a New Woke Generation

The amount of activism in the Trump Era is astounding.  I don't have data to support that there has been an increase, but we have the level of protest activity increase dramatically. This activity was heightened by Trump, but certainly didn't start there.  Movement after movement has arisen to address the increase in inequality and the decline of progress on racial justice and other under-addressed oppression issues.  The Occupy Movement, the gun control movement, and the Movement for Black Lives  were some of the major Pre-Trump groundswells.  Trump era organizing built off those successes and growing consciousness to further mobilize the body politic.   The Women's March, March for Our Lives, Indivisible, #MeTo Movement, the Sunrise Movement, Democratic Socialists of America, created a political environment awash in heightened political consciousness building a citizenry engaged and active.    

We see these changes throughout the culture.  From the pulpits, long-staid churches have ministers declaring themselves as woke.  As a long-time nonprofit professional, the sector has made a heartening move to address more root cause upstream problems and engage on public policy fights.  Even the NFL uses the term "social justice" in its Super Bowl branding of player engagement with community as opposed to the safe volunteerism of yesteryear.  The polling is also demonstrating shifts in support for gun control, universal health care, and climate action towards a significantly more progressive electorate.  

Unabashedly Progressive Political Leadership

True progressive leadership has countered Democrats reluctance to step into this new space, led by the newly elected Congresswomen such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Deb Haaland, Sharice Davids, and Ayana Pressley.  These leaders are both a reflection of our shifting politics and leading the charge in demanding that the political institutions represent the will of a woke electorate.  The mid-term election of these leaders was preceeded by a Democratic primary in which democratic socialist Bernie Sanders nearly beat the establishment.  The campaign demonstrated not the divide in the Democratic Party, but the growing strength of the progressive movement writ-large. 

When Nancy Pelosi dismisses a Green New Deal in 2019, she is representing an incrementalism and political safe path that was defeated in 2016 and a past that no longer exists.  If the Democratic establishment continues to hold to such positions it will eventually find itself on the outside looking in, as opposed to the core of the party.  Indeed, progressive positions on universal health care, gun control, and climate already represent the majority position of Americans (not just the Democratic Party).  Activists are rightfully concerned as to why the establishment has been so slow to adopt these majoritarian positions.  The new leaders and voices in the party are making cogent and passionate arguments that further reinforce progressive policy positions and inspire the continued shift towards a growing progressive majority. 

Dissatisfaction with Trump as the Logical End To Greedy, Racist Conservatism

In many ways, the growing progressive tide is a response to the greedy, racist conservatism magnified by the Tea Party movement and Donald Trump.  The Republican Party combined a pro-rich elites, pro-life Evangelicals and hateful citizens who support oppression against people of color, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQIA community, etc. 

Indeed, the GOP is no longer pro-business, but pro-rich as we have seen in the GOP tax scam that is raising taxes on working families while corporations like Amazon pay zero taxes despite billions in profits.  Few believe this squares with any sense of fairness.  Trump's racism, misogyny, and xenophobia is much more a reflection of a core group of Republicans than some new Trump-led movement.  

And...if we are honest, "centrist" DLC Democrats frequently coopted some of these positions in the last 30 years.  President Clinton's tough on crime approaches furthered mass incarceration.   Third-way consensus banking system deregulation allowed the greedy to increase their wealth while crashing the global economic system all the while exacerbating income inequality in developed countries. Trump can point to video clip after sound-byte of establishment Democrats making over the top cases for border security.  The reluctance of the establishment to embrace progressive positions like Medicare for All or Green New Deal hearken back to the these past transgressions that lacked courage at best and at worst perpetrated systems of oppression.  


The tide is turning quite dramatically and it is up to all of us to stay active and hold leaders accountable to build the progressive majority and policy frameworks that will ensure a more just and equitable future.  The establishment is catching up and will continue to be pushed to doing the right thing as we head into the 2020 Campaign.  

Climate Economic Justice Health Care Politics Racial Justice #progressive #progressivedemocrats