It’s Time for Liberals, Progressives, and Centrists to Call a Ceasefire
After today’s Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, American women no longer have a constitutional right to an abortion.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Congress could seek to codify the right to an abortion, but they won’t. Democrats simply don’t have the numbers to pull it off — and the only way to change that is for old-school liberals, young progressives, and centrist Democrats to swallow their collective pride and start building the coalition they need to stand up to an authoritarian GOP that is now chomping at the bit to strip women of their right to choose.
I’m not an alarmist. I’m not going to argue that the Republican Party presents an existential threat to our nation because, frankly, I don’t think they do. I’ve long believed that the arc of American history bends toward progress, and I still believe that now. Whether it happens in the next year, the next decade, or even the next century, I am convinced that the GOP’s current leadership will eventually fall, the extremists will be purged from their ranks, and they will become a relatively sane and rational party once again.
That being said, I cannot remember a time in my life when there was so much at stake in American politics. A woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy; a climate change strategy that is firmly grounded in reason, logic, and scientific truth; transgender access to quality health care; a democratic electoral system in which every American can trust; all of these things could be lost — and probably will be, at least in the short term — if the Republican Party doesn’t suffer a decisive defeat in the ’22 midterms and ’24 presidential election.
Before that can happen, however, Democrats must first reevaluate their priorities. Progressives have to decide whether they’re more or less concerned with restoring a woman’s right to an abortion than they are with driving establishment liberals out of the Democratic Party for good. Liberals have to decide whether stopping climate change is more or less important to them than scolding young Zoomers who insist on using their preferred pronouns. And centrists need to decide whether they’re more or less concerned with preserving their “free thinker” credentials than they are with restoring faith in America’s democratic processes.
In other words, Democrats need to decide whether they want to waste their energy fighting each other or channel that energy against their far-right rivals in the Republican Party.
Intraparty divisions are the norm in politics, especially those of a generational nature. The changing of the guard in any political movement will always ruffle the feathers of seasoned, savvy veterans who feel as though they’re being pushed out of something that they themselves helped to create and defend. It’s a routine phenomenon that has to happen, and it’s rarely a smooth transition — but there’s no avoiding it. This is just how political parties grow and evolve.
The problem is that, at this juncture in history, the widening rift between old-school Democrats and their younger, more progressive counterparts threatens to inflict just as much harm on the nation as a whole as it does on the Democratic Party itself.
The GOP has become the party of Donald Trump, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. That’s why every major Republican figure whose name has been dropped as a potential presidential candidate is trying desperately to be the next Trump. There’s no telling whether the man himself will put his hat in the ring in 2024. But even if he doesn’t end up on the top of the GOP’s presidential ticket, his spirit most certainly will.
Liberals want to stop him just as much as progressives do. And centrist Democrats should want to stop him as much as both liberals and progressives. None of us should welcome the prospect of an authoritarian Republican Party back at this nation’s helm. But to prevent that future from materializing, Democrats need to present an outwardly united front in the ’22 and ’24 elections.
That doesn’t mean engaging in self-censorship, mind you. It doesn’t mean holding your tongue when you think there’s a better solution to an important problem than the one being proposed by a fellow party member. It’s perfectly natural to have disagreements within a political party. In fact, it’s downright healthy, and it should be especially welcome within a Democratic Party that rejects the politics of conformity and embraces diversity.
What it does mean, however, is that Democrats must learn how to play nice with each other in the interests of establishing a genuinely inclusive left-wing coalition that isn’t threatened by a little friendly, internal dissent.
Bear in mind that while progressives, liberals, and center-leftists might not all be playing for the same team, they are most certainly all playing against the same team. And if they have any hope of winning, they’re going to have to start behaving like the adults in the room. They’re going to have to stop being so dogmatic and intolerant and start learning how to coexist and cooperate with each other like they did during then-Senator Obama’s wildly successfully presidential campaign of 2008.
Remember that one? The one that was modeled on the idea that tolerance and progress aren’t antithetical concepts? The one that celebrated the Democratic Party as a big-tent party with plenty of room for an array of left-wing perspectives, and even a few centrist ones? The one that put the White House back in Democrats’ hands for eight straight years?
Now would be a good time to resurrect that model before Trump and the GOP exploit America’s divisions for their own benefit for a second time. The clock is ticking, and the polls ain’t looking real good. It’s now or never.