Extreme polarization has pushed the alt-right and left so far apart. Will they ever meet in the middle again?
In a recent conversation with a friend, the topic of the Democratic candidates for the 2020 election came up. My friend said that the Democratic Party, though well-intentioned, is scaring off potential voters by leaning too far left. He also commented that in taking dramatic steps all at once pushes the right even further away, leaving little room for compromise. What my friend was saying made sense, and sounded extremely familiar. But in dealing with "left" and "right," no one is actually evaluating policies and their benefits.
And so I immediately thought: what is "too far left"?
The term Democratic-socialist or just "socialist" has been thrown around by the right to make Democrats appear extreme and anti-capitalism. An example of this is Bernie Sanders' campaign for the 2016 election. However, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC) ran for Congress under this label — which, in my opinion, was daring. Democrats shy away from being called socialists because it brings upon a whole new set of baggage, as does any label. What AOC did was embrace the label that was supposed to be her downfall, therefore she made it known that her policies are unconventional. The best part is she won. This means that the people in her district were convinced that her policies could make an impact, socialist in theory or not. But for Bernie Sanders to convince an entire nation of this may not be as easy.
When it comes to the term socialist, the public is split into two: those who associate it with European nations and their progressive, hands-on approach, and those who see it as an overreach of political power. The problem is not really policies, as much as they are labels and parties. And the Democratic Party does not have a united front when it comes to their image and approach to politics.
Candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg held a town hall on Fox News, and the crowd applauded and agreed with most of what he said. Fox News viewers are known to vote heavily Republican, and yet they found themselves understanding a young Democrat. Mayor Pete in his town hall outlined exactly what my friend said. In his careful word choice, he came across as a non-socialist Democrat though he holds very similar views to Sanders and AOC. As George Washington said, parties and labels change everything. There is nothing wrong with socialist views until they are marked as socialist, and become a threat to one of the strongest capitalist societies in the world.
"Too far left" is a matter of image and representation. The Democratic Party wants to make great change and soon, but by assuming and debating the socialist label it isolates itself from the current American system. For the presidential election, the Democratic candidates need to prove their accessibility to the people. And going farther left (for better or for worse) is not making oneself accessible to the other side.