In stark contrast to the radical right-wing sentiment being spewed on one side of this US presidential election, the Democrats are running on their most progressive platform ever.
This shift comes largely as a result of the influence of Bernie Sanders, whose unprecedented popularity throughout the primary campaign forced Hillary Clinton’s team to rethink how to win the dreaded ‘millennial’ vote.
As a result of Sanders’ influence, as well as in an attempt to avert focus from her status as the epitome of ‘the establishment’, Clinton has adopted many of Sander’s progressive policies, such as free tuition at in-state colleges for low-income families; expansion of social security; an increase in the federal minimum wage, and a greater focus of civil rights.
However, Sanders’ success is perhaps overstated. Whilst he has undeniably been successful in pushing Clinton to the left, timing is also very important - in past years it would have been difficult for the Democrats to win the presidency with such a progressive stance.
Many Democrat voters do not support the kinds of social policy we’re seeing in this year’s platform - early 2016 Pew Research Centre polling found that 24% of Democrats still oppose same-sex marriage, 28% oppose abortion ‘in all/most cases’, and a CBS News poll found that 29% of Democrats believe transgender people should use the bathroom of their birth gender.
The left of the party is lucky, this year is different: the Republican nominee is so radically right-wing that few life-long Democrats will be lost to the Republicans based on the party platform. It’s indisputable that there will be many voters lost to the Republicans this year, but divisions between Clinton’s Democrats and Trump’s Republicans are so deep that there is little chance of a voter jumping the rift because they have qualms with the party’s stance on transgender rights.
Furthermore, Republicans defecting to the Democrats because they despise Trump are unlikely to stay home because they can’t bear to vote for a party with a progressive platform. If someone who has voted Republican all their life hates Trump enough to grit their teeth and vote for Clinton in order to keep him out, the platform isn’t going to put them off. Pleasing their liberal side without risking the loss of moderates will be incredibly important for the Democrats this year, as without the support of Sanders fans they have little chance of success in November.
For the hard-left, there’s always accelerationism - a totally ridiculous idea that may be the left’s long-term glimmer of hope. It’s the theory that the systems of capitalism, in this case the US two-party system, can be utilised in order to further a particular anti-capitalist agenda. The accelerationist argument for this US election goes that a government as right-wing as Trump’s would convince the population that Socialism is the true solution, thus they could build success from his ashes.
Clearly, this is an incredibly flawed and selfish argument - four years of Trump would be so dangerous that only one of the few who would be safe could argue in favour. For those more dedicated to Socialism than they are to the safety of those around them, accelerationism is the solution. If Trump wins, it may be the only hope the left can cling to.
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