Young progressive Democrats are taking their party from its traditional leadership that does not look like or represent their interests. What the New York Times calls a “revolution” is actually just the Democratic voters taking action after its party’s leadership largely ignored them.
Speaking to the Times, a young Democrat said of his party’s long-standing leadership, “I think they’re traditionally spineless.”
Gutless leaders may soon be seeing the door. More progressive candidates have seen success in states around the country, and the new faces of the Democratic Party are capitalizing on this opportunity.
The “revolution” isn’t appearing out of thin air, though. Democrats are losing their share of white voters — just over a quarter of white registered voters identify as such. Meanwhile, 70 percent of Black voters and 47 percent of Hispanic voters are Democrats, according to Pew Research Center. Despite this, Democrats failed in the 2016 election to engage minority voters.
The majority of Democrats/Democratic-leaning voters — 57 percent — are still white, but this number has been historically going down. In 1992, three-quarters of Democratic voters were white. As the party has been on its way to becoming minority-majority, though, leaders have made no effort to court these voters.
According to Pew, “The black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6% in 2016 after reaching a record-high 66.6% in 2012. The 7-percentage-point decline from the previous presidential election is the largest on record for blacks.”
But those who did come out remained loyal to the Democrats. Eighty-nine percent of Black voters supported Hillary Clinton on election night.
In Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones won the Senate race in a surprising victory. His win came largely thanks to Black voters — particularly Black women. Jones is the first of his party to represent the state of Alabama in the Senate since 1992.
Meanwhile, some young Democrats are taking a different approach and either running themselves or getting behind a candidate not put forth by their party’s “spineless” leaders. According to the Times:
In more solidly Democratic parts of the country, younger progressives have battered entrenched political leaders, ousting veteran state legislators in Pennsylvania and Maryland and rejecting, in upstate New York, a congressional candidate recruited by the national party.
In Maryland, Democrats passed over several respected local officials to select Ben Jealous, a former N.A.A.C.P. president and an ally of Mr. Sanders who backs single-payer health care, as their nominee for governor. And in a climactic upset in New York last month, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Democratic socialist, felled Representative Joseph Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House.
In Michigan, Abdul El-Sayed is running in hopes of becoming the state’s first Muslim governor. He said victories such as Ocasio-Cortez’s were inevitable.
“The rise of somebody like Alexandria seems kind of obvious to somebody in our generation,” he told the Times. “The machine, whether it is on the right or on the left, has assented to this broken system of corporate politics, and I think people are real frustrated about that.”
Whether the current spark among Democrats will lead to fire or go up in smoke in the long run remains to be seen. But for now, candidates such as Ocasio-Cortez, who is now campaigning for other progressive candidates with Sen. Bernie Sanders, is inspiring others to take action.
“She has become the kind of inspirational leader that people across the country have become desperate for,” said Brent Welder, a former Sanders delegate running for Congress in the 3rd district in Kansas, at a rally.