For decades Democratic politicians have advanced economic policy positions (on: taxes, social safety net like healthcare, shelter, food, and money) several steps to right of Democratic voters. Actually, on many issues they were to the right of Republican voters. Below is handy, oversimplified graphic of where Democratic and Republican voters and politicians were/are on key economic issues:
1) This historic policy shift should be celebrate by Democrats, because voters were right and politicians knew it. Politicians held these moderate positions because they were tethered to bipartisanship or corporate donations. Rhetoric always indicated politicians who knew better, but thought they could not win general elections with positive progressive messaging. President Trump won the election by dishonestly claiming mantle of economic populism, showed how foolish Democratic politicians were to avoid position of their base.
2) This historic policy shift should highlight the absurdity of the Republican politicians’ policy positions. The Republicans want to dramatically cut taxes and decimate the social safety net. In 2017 they passed a tax cut for rich were 83 percent of benefit went to households with income greater than $1,000,000, the majority of American households will get a tax increase! It exploded the debt, as much as $1.5 to 2 trillion over next 10 years. And, they fought to offset it by crushing our meager subsidies for healthcare. And, now Speaker Ryan daydreams about slashing Social Security and Medicare. And, all of this is hidden: Republicans know how unpopular their plans are, even with their base, so they debate policy in secret.
3) Media is pathetic, and played by Republicans again, attacking Democrats for public policy debate, while ignoring Republicans because they hide their debate. Democrats should be applauded for debating policy in public, while Republicans hide and lie about core policy positions.
4) Democrats have serious internal debates on process: from campaigning to procedure, but that is not interesting to most voters and media should stop conflating it with a policy debate. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a great victory in the primaries and will go onto be an important Congressperson. But, her policy positions are not that far from the person she defeated. She is new blood, she is fired up, she fights hard on every issue, and guns against Democrats who don’t. That is an important difference in process, but that does not mean there is a civil war brewing.
Diving into the numbers a little, the shift left from Democratic politicians has finally brought them in-line with their voters. For example, on healthcare: somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of Democratic voters support some variation of ability for anyone to buy Medicare, Medicare for all, or some other method of reaching universal healthcare coverage. This was true prior to the 2016 election, as it is now. But, prior to the 2016 election Democratic politicians favored gradual increases in subsidies for Medicaid or other gradual methods. Crazy thing: Republican voters were also to left of Democratic politicians.
This holds true for every element of the social safety net: from Social Security to food subsidies to the working poor. There is strong support for the social safety net and it is new that the Democratic politicians are finally aligning with their voters.
This holds true for how to pay for the social safety net as well. On taxes, everyone wants to raise taxes on rich, corporations. Democrats are now finally realizing they do not need to back tax cuts for rich, because it is not actually good or popular. Great!