At a time when Democrats plan to nominate a 77-year-old white moderate to be our party standard-bearer, the future of the party is clearly younger, more progressive and more colorful than ever before. We see this with Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris to be his running mate, but we also see it in congressional races all across the country.
After decades of cautious incrementalism, established incumbents in safe Democratic congressional districts who failed to keep up with the new vision of the party have begun to tumble. The two biggest examples come from my home state of New York and my native state of Missouri.
In New York, Rep. Eliot Engel, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was sent to retirement thanks to progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman. Meanwhile, in Missouri, veteran Rep. William Lacy Clay, lost his primary to progressive challenger Cori Bush.
The movement is also gaining by attrition, as the departure of senior Democrats creates new opportunities for young progressives and people of color. The retirement of 83-year-old Nita Lowey in New York’s 17th congressional district created an opening for 33-year-old Mondaire Jones. And the retirement of 76-year-old José Serrano in New York’s 15th opened the door for 32-year-old Ritchie Torres. Jones and Torres will be the first two out Black gay men in Congress.
In the old days, Democrats were ashamed to be called “liberal.” These days, 76% of Democrats say they’d vote for a socialist for President. And even after weeks of civil unrest that would have spooked fearful Democrats in years past, 86% support the protests against police violence.
The wind is at our back. As America becomes more diverse and open-minded, Democrats have won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, and Republicans have had to resort to voter suppression attempts and gerrymandering to stay in power.
Once radical ideas like marriage equality, Medicare for All, legalizing marijuana, universal basic incomes, reducing police budgets and the Green New Deal have slowly become more mainstream. And for loyal Democrats like myself — who have been patiently waiting for real change for decades — it’s finally time for the party to deliver.
The Democratic Party should look and govern like the majority it represents.
Conservatives have not won the popular vote in a presidential election since 1988 — with the exception of the election that followed 9/11. So, how do they maintain power? By using a stealth combination of electoral practices, such as voter suppression and gerrymandering, a single-minded commitment to packing the courts with young ideologues to the right of the country and a willingness to mislead the public on issues as important as pandemic response.
The new Democratic Party has no greater mandate than the restoration of small ‘d’ democracy. We must enact structural court reform, end the filibuster and treat election access like the national crisis that it is. Every American must be able to vote easily and safely, and the government must not be rigged to allow a small group of men in danger of losing power to overturn the people’s will and ignore their priorities.
The majority of Americans believe in gun control, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and abortion access. And now, positions once considered too progressive are also becoming mainstream — from police reform to government-run healthcare to reducing the fossil fuel economy.
In short, we should govern like we have the support and mandate of the country, because we do. But we shouldn’t just govern like a majority — we should govern like the specific majority that the Democratic Party is. According to Pew Research, only 39% of white men voted Democratic in 2018, even after two years of a chaotic Trump administration.