Democrats: It’s Not About “Purity,” but “Priority”
Recently, the corporate news sites have been in a tizzy over Progressive criticism of Democratic Party rising-star Kamala Harris, among other establishment Democrats. These critics, as well as Harris herself, claim that the American Left in general and “Bernie Bros” in particular have applied a “Purity Test” to center-leaning and corporate-backed politicians seeking fill the power vacuum left by last November’s Election Day defeat. This is a line carried over from the 2016 primaries, wherein the Clinton Camp complained that the Sanders campaign was forcing Clinton to adhere to unreasonable and varying standards of Progressive “purity.” However, is this really what is going on here?
This article written by Ryan Cooper and published in “The Week” doesn’t think so. Rather than demanding these Centrists adhere to a test of purity, Cooper claims “they need to make a symbolic rhetorical break with the despised donor class.” He elaborates: “The left generally likes Elizabeth Warren because she ferociously criticizes Wall Street and corporate abuse. Adopting a harsh anti-economic elite line will reassure young Sanders Democrats that anti-establishment policies aren’t just window dressing. Meanwhile, steps like refusing to take PAC money and running mostly on small donors will signal independence from the donor class (and as Sanders discovered, might actually lead to a gusher of campaign cash).”
What he is saying, correctly, is that their policies do not need to change, rather, their priorities need to.
This has always been the case; on the campaign trail Sanders never criticized Clinton for not holding enough progressive policies. Rather, he criticized the fact that the progressive policies she held were not the crux of her campaign. She had frequently switched stances on issues from LGBT+ rights to the Iraq War, whereas her dedication to the corporate elites that financed her political ambitions was never really in question. As such, the foundation of her campaign for the presidency was not in Progressive issues, but rather the interests of Wall Street.
Sanders is not without his own faults, but the essential difference is that those faults were never the root of his platform. He built his campaign around his trademark issues of campaign finance reform, student loan reform, and protection for the working class. These are issues he has held publicly, with relatively little variation, for the past half-century. Not only that, but those were the policies he built his campaign around. Just compare this Sanders ad:
To this Clinton ad:
Sanders spent the majority of his ad describing his plans and where he stood: against war, against Wall Street, against the ruling class in Washington, for clean energy, for living wages, for the working class. Contrast that to Clinton’s ad, wherein she spends the entire ad talking about Trump. Never does she put down a meaningful declaration that she will fight for any sort of Progressive ideal. The only thing she will promise is to be “not Trump.”
Flash forward to today with the new batch of corporate puppets we are being handed, and we see that theme repeating. Why should we support Harris rather than Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin? “She spoke against Trump!” That, says the party elites, should be enough. She doesn’t have to do anything more than be a talking head in opposition to the president to deserve our votes and support. That, frankly, is ridiculous.
Trump is the symptom of an ill society, and getting rid of him today without remedying that illness will result in nothing but another even more regressive Trump a decade from now. As such, unless someone is willing to put in the legwork to resist and fight the corporate system behind the madness, they are not worth our support. This is the failing of candidates like Harris; they will not put in that work, they will not target systemic issues, and are in fact beholden to the same corporate masters as the president they purport to oppose!
Demanding they address this glaring hypocrisy is not a “purity test”; it is the only practical way to secure real Progressive reforms in this country.