What is happening to the Democrats?
Captivated by a handful of liberal superstars, they are venturing where the party has long feared to tread: Steep taxes on the rich. Abolishing an immigration enforcement agency. And proposing a sweeping Green New Deal that calls for an “economic transformation” to combat climate change.
On Thursday, newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led a chorus of cheers as Amazon announced it was abandoning plans to build a sought-after headquarters in New York City. Activists berated the online giant for a $3 billion package of tax breaks she said the city could better invest in hiring teachers or fixing the subway.
This is not the Democratic Party of yesteryear. Or even last year.
“The Amazon New York fight is an illustration of how power is moving to the left,” said Ben Wikler, of the liberal group MoveOn. “One of the world’s most powerful organizations doesn’t want to pick a fight with progressive activists.”
As the liberal flank celebrates its sudden ascendance in the party, energized by the new House freshmen pushing the party toward bold policy solutions, others wonder if the Democrats are veering so far left they’re about to fall off a cliff.
It’s a valid question ahead of a presidential primary season with an unusually robust roster of contenders trying to wrest the White House from President Donald Trump. The race comes at a time of shifting party loyalties and eroding confidence in traditional corridors of power, a dynamic that has recast the policy prescriptions of both parties.
The big questions for 2020: Will Democrats move beyond the center-left policies that have dominated the party since Bill Clinton’s presidency? And if so, will they find the electorate is repelled, as Republicans claim, or will they discover that a country long described as “center-right” is receptive to a return to liberalism?
Democratic pollster John Anzalone said the leftward lurch that’s playing out in the Amazon fight wouldn’t necessarily hurt the party heading into 2020 and could resonate with voters.
“When you’re doing corporate giveaways, whether for a big company or a sports team, it’s not as cut-and-dry as most people think,” Anzalone said. “The fact is there tends to be a belief that these big corporations have a lot of money and use their power to get deals they don’t need.”