By Froma Harrop / syndicated columnist
Progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., has been all over TV trying to look reasonable with her ingratiating smile and syrupy references to the left’s interest in “negotiations.” At issue is the Democrats’ final number on its social spending bill.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was playing the sleazy salesman, inflating his original price to offer a discount. This took the form of noting that his $3.5 trillion figure was a markdown from the $6 trillion he previously wanted.
New York Rep. Mondaire Jones, meanwhile, says he has a problem with people applying the term “moderate” to Democrats not on board with the left’s social spending goals. He apparently thinks that progressives threatening to torpedo the wildly popular infrastructure bill if their demands aren’t met should henceforth be called “the moderates.”
What is it about the left that constantly wants to police language? It would seem part of an unconvincing charm offensive in a party whose majority increasingly resents the left’s serial extortion demands; often delivered in words that hurt the very Democrats who have given them the ability to influence anything.
That ability shrunk in the 2020 election, as an electorate that preferred President Biden by over 7 million votes also punished several House Democrats who held hard-won seats in purple districts.
Much of the blame goes to the far left’s incontinent radical talk about “defunding the police.” Jayapal, for one, said she would “redirect law enforcement funding to other community programs.” Translation: Take money from police. This was propitiously timed during a spike in crime rates. Public safety had become a concern among Americans of all races, but the left-wing gentry had posturing to do.
All this created a politically stupid diversion from calls to reform law enforcement practices, a response to serious incidents of abusive policing. Democrat Max Rose from Staten Island had voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, as did other swing-district Democrats, such as Abby Finkenauer of northeast Iowa and Anthony Brindisi from upstate New York. Rose, Finkenauer and Brindisi all lost in November. (Finkenauer is now running in Iowa for the Senate.)
A few months before the 2020 presidential election, while the Democratic primaries were still going on, “60 Minutes” did a feature in which Sanders renewed past praise of Fidel Castro for his literacy program and for expanding health care. The former Cuban dictator also tortured and murdered dissidents, it was pointed out.
Pressed on the matter, Sanders said he didn’t approve of the torture part, but that wasn’t enough to save Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. She lost her Miami-area district, home to many Cuban Americans.
The left can complain all it wants about West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and his insistence that the price for the social spending come down. But he and (the incomprehensible) Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have so much power, as Biden has noted, because the Senate is evenly divided. Democrats might have held more Senate seats were it not for the left’s habit of scaring moderate voters.
Manchin did offer to accept $1.5 trillion in increased social spending. That is not a small sum, and perhaps he’d go higher. The left indicates it may go lower, but it’s already weakened the Democrats’ reputation as the party that can govern. It doesn’t understand — or care — that the future of the country is also at stake as leaders of the opposite party work to destabilize democratic institutions.
The left is a minority within the Democratic Party. Its champions lost recent primaries in New York, Virginia, Louisiana and Ohio. The radical fringe seems larger than it is because it gets media attention, especially when it flames other Democrats. Only Democratic voters can exact a price for sabotaging the team.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at email@example.com.