At the November Democratic presidential primary debate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) criticized Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) for criticizing the Democratic Party.
“Our Democratic Party, unfortunately, is not the party that is of, by and for the people,” Gabbard said. “It is a party that has been and continues to be influenced by the foreign policy establishment in Washington represented by Hillary Clinton and others’ foreign policy, by the military-industrial complex and other greedy corporate interests.”
Harris rose to her party’s defense. “I think that it’s unfortunate that we have someone on this stage that is attempting to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, who during the Obama administration spent four years full time on Fox News criticizing President Obama,” she said.
Harris’s words were no doubt welcome by members of the party’s establishment. At the same time there is a growing progressive wing in the Democratic Party that wholeheartedly agrees with Gabbard.
Take Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), for example. She’s a democratic socialist, and she ran against the incumbent establishment Democrat in her district last year and beat him. She regularly chastises Democrats for not holding to a sufficiently aggressive progressive agenda.
Ocasio-Cortez and the three other most progressive Democrats in the House, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this year for supporting a border funding bill that progressives feared would not adequately protect children in custody at the border.
A quick scan of progressive news sites also highlights progressives’ growing dissatisfaction with establishment Democrats.
The Intercept regularly reports on centrist Democrats who cave on important policy issues and don’t serve the American people’s interests.
“Centrist Democrats, Led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, to Fundraise With Corporate Lobby Group Seeking to Defeat Democratic Agenda,” reads an Oct. 28 headline.
“Two Surging Candidates Could Make Philadelphia Far More Progressive. Democrats Are Going to War to Stop Them,” reads a Nov. 4 headline.
One January story from The Intercept even describes Gabbard as a “rising progressive star.”
Then there’s the Jacobin Magazine, which explicitly pushes a progressive agenda (many of the magazine’s writers support Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president).
“Crush the Democrats Funding Trump’s Concentration Camps in 2020,” reads a July 2 headline, calling for Democrats who voted for the border funding bill to be “primaried” and voted out of office by true progressives.
“The Myths of Means-Testing Are Still Alive Among Democrats,” reads a June 28 headline for a story criticizing 2020 presidential hopefuls like Joe Biden for their negative comments about Medicare-For-All.
“Thankfully, the Democrats Are Playing Hardball With the Left,” reads a May 9 headline, celebrating the fact that establishment Democrats are trying to stop more progressives from getting elected.
On Twitter, prominent progressive personalities defended Gabbard’s comments at the debate.
When Pod Save America, a left-leaning podcast, celebrated Harris’ reproof of Gabbard, progressive commentator Aaron Maté tweeted, “In which @PodSaveAmerica defines Tulsi’s ‘record’ not by her actual policies or votes, but what Democratic Party centrists decide she can be smeared for — including appearing on Fox News. Savage hackery.”
Glenn Greenwald, a journalist at The Intercept, said Democrats “have no principles of any kind” for holding Gabbard to a double standard.
“2007 Democrats: We love Obama’s for promising to meet without conditions with Assad – and all the other leaders of the Bad Countries, even N Korea – as a means of opening dialogue (I said this, too),” he tweeted. “2019 Dems: Tulsi is evil for doing it.”
Sanders, the progressive favorite for president, is tied for first with former Vice President Joe Biden in the latest national poll from Emerson, nabbing 27 percent of the Democratic vote. Harris, on the other hand, has rapidly declined in the polls down to 4.3 percent.
To ignore the growing progressive wing in the Democratic Party and dismiss their concerns with the party is to ignore a lot of voters.
Perhaps that’s why Harris is at single digits in the polls.