For those Democrats who insist their party is utterly mainstream, pragmatic rather than ideological, and right in the center of American politics, I have some news for you: You’re not.
The New York Times published a story reporting that Bernie Sanders — that would be the socialist Bernie Sanders, referred to by the Times as “the Senate’s most left-wing member” — is not only gaining momentum in Iowa, he has “been inspiring fervor among the Democratic base.” And how he has.
The Times story points to the fact the Sanders drew 700 people to an event on Thursday night in Davenport, the largest rally in the state for any single candidate this campaign season. His stop at a brewery in Ames on Saturday “was so mobbed that more than 100 people who could not fit inside peered through the windows.”
“Judging from Mr. Sanders’s trip here last week,” Trip Gabriel and Patrick Healy report, “there is real support for his message.”
Apparently so. Here’s more on-the-ground reporting from the Times:
The crowds at Mr. Sanders’s Iowa events appeared to be different from the state’s famously finicky tire-kickers. Many said they had already made up their mind to support Mr. Sanders. They applauded his calls for higher taxes on the rich to pay for 13 million public works jobs, for decisive action on climate change and for free tuition at public colleges.
“Look at all these people,” said Phyllis Viner, 68, a yoga instructor who attended his Davenport event at St. Ambrose University.
Lindsay O’Keefe, 22, who took a picture of a Sanders poster that read, “Paid for by Bernie 2016 (not the billionaires),” called Mr. Sanders “a really valuable candidate” who can “push Hillary to the left” even if he does not defeat her.
The next day, in Muscatine, Iowa, after a rally at a community college drew twice the expected audience of 50, Mr. Sanders seemed to be experiencing a contact high from the size of his crowds. He sat on a picnic table outside for a short interview.
“Be amazed at what you saw here,” he said, adding, “I want to win this.”
Be amazed indeed. Bernie Sanders — democratic socialist, 73-years-old, a man who is on the outer edges of American politics and on whose wall hangs a portrait of Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist Party presidential candidate of the early 20th century — is setting Democratic hearts aflutter. Senator Sanders won’t win the nomination, but he — along with Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — is stirring something deep within the souls of Democrats. They are giving voice to what many Democrats genuinely believe, what they long for, what they are desperate for: Progressivism in its most purified and unalloyed form.
Think about how the Democratic presidential race is lining up. According to the Washington Post, “Hillary Rodham Clinton is running as the most liberal Democratic presidential front-runner in decades, with positions on issues … that would, in past elections, have put her at her party’s precarious left edge.” Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is running to her left. And Bernie Sanders is running to his left.
And yet despite this, Democrats and liberals continue to act as if it’s Republicans and conservatives who are extreme, radical, revolutionary, on the fringe. Progressives have created an alternate reality in which they are moderate, temperate, centrist, the very model of reasonableness. They are blind to their own zeal and dogmatism, their own immoderation and intolerance.
The Democratic Party was once a great party. It may be a great party again. But for now, it is a radical party — and growing more radical by the day.