Excise the toxic left: Why peacock socialists are to blame for Democrats' downballot damage

Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Photo: NSPA & ACP, Kathy Fang, Flickr. License.

By the grace of everything holy, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are now President-elect and Vice President-elect, respectively. But the socialist, radical left hurt Democratic chances in downballot races significantly and measurably.

Going in to the election season, Democrats were poised to pick up senate seats in places like Arizona, North Carolina, Maine, Colorado, Montana, Iowa, Texas, and even South Carolina, with only the potential loss of a Democratic seat in Alabama tempering those gains. As I write, Democrats have gained only two of those seats - in Arizona and Colorado, and in addition to the expected loss of Doug Jones in Alabama, Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan barely hung onto his seat in a state Joe Biden flipped from Donald Trump fairly easily and with twice the margin Peters posted against his Republican opponent. Control of the Senate now hinges on whether Democrats can secure both Senate seats in Georgia, apparently headed to January runoffs.

It is also apparent that while Democrats will hold the House, the majority will be smaller. Expectations were that we would gain seats in the House, not lose them.

The blame for this belongs on the far left, cosplay, 'Democratic' socialists and their standard bearers: Sen. Bernie Sanders and the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from one of toughest districts in the country, stated on a House Democratic conference call, the association of the Democratic party - unwitting as may be - with socialism and calls to 'defund' the police.

I am a Democrat from a district as blue as they come, and Rep. Spanberger, who comes from an R+6 district, speaks for me, one hundred percent.

Appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday, House Majority Whip and South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn categorically stated that Democratic chances in the House and Senate was severely damaged by association with the radical elements of the left demanding the defunding and abolition of police.

The rhetoric around socialism - its 'democratic' veil notwithstanding - and 'defunding' the police hurt Democrats up and down the ballot from red states to blue ones and everything in the middle. The toxic, far left needs to face it: In this election, the concept of far left revolutionary politics was repudiated as much as Donald Trump and his band of far right goon-politics appears to have been.

There are lots of reasons why.

First, the actual concept of socialism is broadly viewed in most of America as leftist authoritarian populism, no better than right wing authoritarian populism represented by Donald Trump. Apart from Nazi Germany (the term 'Nazi', too incorporates the term 'socialist', but I digress), socialist and communist regimes have been responsible for the greatest amount of human suffering in the past 100 years, and many of the people whose lives those regimes and their descendants now call the United States home. Self-styled 'socialists' in places from the former Soviet Union and present-day Russia, its allies in south and central American countries and China killed and devastated the lives of millions of people at the alter of political ideology.

And so even many who are receptive to popular progressive policy ideas like universal health care, reducing the cost of higher education, universal preschool, and aggressively addressing climate change are repelled by the association with the theology of socialism. Whatever the polls say - and I think that after 2016 and 2020 everyone should learn to take polls with a grain of salt - it is being proven again and again that people will not support the association of socialism, both the concept and standard bearers of which are viewed through the lens of radical authoritarianism.

The biggest part of the problem, of course, is that those that see themselves as leaders on the left do not do anything to dispel the notion that their goal is not to simply help those in need but to radically transform society into a Soviet-style statist nation. They gloat about what a great job Fidel Castro did in Cuba, refuse to call Venezuela's Maduro a dictator, loudly demand an economic blockade against Israel, and call for police to be defunded or abolished. Then they peacock their 'activism' to become social media 'influencers', and make sure as much attention as possible is focused on their person and their perceived moral superiority.

In response to these and other criticism, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez insisted on this morning on CNN's State of the Union that 'socialism' and 'defund the police' were merely effective rhetorical attacks the GOP used that no Democrat - including in progressive districts - ran on in the general election. While it may be technically true (although I could not say for certain) that no Democrat put up ads saying they are a socialist or that they want to defund the police in the timeline that was set between the two party conventions and the general election, members of the left fringe of our party in Congress have given the Republicans' rhetorical attacks life by supporting radical proposals.

In July, at least two high profile leftists - Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, supported concept legislation that would close all federal prisons, disband ICE and the DEA. Ocasio-Cortez herself has publicly supported eliminating the entire Department of Homeland Security and as late as September, abolishing ICE. In June of this year, Ocasio-Cortez demanded New York city defund its police department.

And it would be political malpractice not to admit that in order to endear themselves to edgy socialists, elected Democrats have drawn attention to themselves by creating proposals to defund police departments at local levels, most damagingly the city of Minneapolis, where the entire City Council, which has 12 Democrats and one Green party member, voted to defund the city's police department over the summer.

Bernie Sanders has now run twice for the Democratic nomination, and both times, received massive media coverage, a good number of votes, and the adulation of leftist stars like Ocasio-Cortez. Sanders' embrace of socialist authoritarian regimes and his own linking of 'democratic' socialism with policy positions he espoused, like eliminating private health insurance, was a mainstay of focus for effective Republican campaigns against Democrats across the country. Not only did it cost Democrats in Congress, tying Sanders to Biden may well have been responsible for the massive erosion of support for Democrats among the Florida Cuban American community leading to Biden's loss in the state.

So, once again, whether or not any Democrat ran their general election stretch on a concentrated message of defunding the police or socialism is almost beside the point. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and radical groups demanding the defunding of police - please don't quibble about what the plain apparent meaning ofv'defunding' is; if you don't mean 'eliminate funding', don't say 'defund' - etched into the minds of voters that a significant movement is afloat on the left to do away with police and impose a statist government. These voters feared that a President Biden, buoyed by a Democratic Senate and a more Democratic House would find himself pressured to choose a radical leftist path. Voters responded by still electing Biden to the presidency, but tempering it with a million downballot cuts for Democrats.

It's time we realize that socialism - what American voters understand it to be - is not popular.

The toxic left refuses to concede that the vast majority of what represents socialism today comes from brutal autocratic regimes and insist that their version of socialism is merely a more gentle form of social welfare state akin to countries in western Europe. They point to polls showing that their talking point policy abstracts are supported by majorities of the American public as evidence that there's nothing wrong with their advocacy of socialism.

The truth is that benign European-style social democracies are simply not what most Americans understand socialism to be. "Social democracies" govern a mere 200 million people in Western Europe, while undemocratic, repressive socialist and communist regimes in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Americas rule with their boots on the necks of over nearly 2 billion people. On the sheer representative scale alone, there is no case for convincing people that when you say 'socialism', you are talking about the 200 million and not the 2 billion. That is absurd on its face.

As much as it seems edgy and emotional, radicalism, especially leftist radicalism, has little appeal among the American electorate. Americans are a people that believes in reform, not revolution. Incrementalism may be ridiculed among the socialist elite and sometimes it may appear too small to meet the moment, but steady, incremental expansion of the rights of individuals and the social safety net is how America has made the vast majority of its progress.

2020 did not have to turn out as an election with mixed messages. Democrats had a clear path to not just a thumping victory in the race for the White House - a good part of which Biden seems poised to achieve anyway - but also in the House, Senate and state legislatures. Instead, President-elect Biden will be dealing with a smaller Democratic majority in the House, perhaps a Republican Senate, and in the last election before pivotal redistricting across the states, Democrats have lost important leverage.


The time has come for the Democratic party to excise the toxic left. We should welcome progressives and moderates alike but categorically reject ideologues and those insistent on spouting radical language as elected leaders. If we truly believe that the American people are with us on the issues - as they are - it's time we stopped sabotaging ourselves through our own fringe.

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