The Democratic Party is struggling to provide an alternative to xenophobic populism
The crowded stage of 24 aspirants for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 U.S. presidential election is indicative of a larger crisis that has gripped the party.
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The first primary debate took place over two days this week. The fragmentation of the Democratic constituency, which is increasingly less than the sum of its parts, is evident.
The frontrunner is former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who, at 76, is 30 years older than the average age of three Democratic Presidents who reinvented the party at critical junctures — John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Carrying the burden of his 50 years in politics, Mr. Biden was in the crossfire of his rivals. Mr. Biden was accused of clinging on, and compromising with, racist positions and segregationists in the past. His positions, indefensible by the present standards of justice and progress, were taken in a different era and century.
The Democratic Party is re-litigating these issues in a 21st century primary contest with the same man at the centre is a sign of its inability to evolve a forward-looking agenda articulated in appealing and inspiring idioms.
California Senator Kamala Harris gained significant momentum for her bid with narrations of moving personal experiences that echoed the protracted struggles for justice and equality in America.
Ms. Harris and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren are two women candidates in the fray with comparable agendas that propose some fundamental restructuring of the American political economy.
They will be competing with Bernie Sanders, who nearly felled Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primaries, to be the flag-bearer of the progressive strain within the Democratic spectrum, and potentially the candidate.
Mr. Sanders’s trailblazing campaign in 2016 de-stigmatised socialism for many, but that has not resolved the central question that baffles American Democrats: how to deal with globalised capitalism.
Resolutions to a number of issues such as border security, immigration, healthcare, global trade and minimum wages are predicated on renegotiating the terms of American capitalism and its democracy.
The New Deal politics of Franklin Roosevelt that built American welfarism withered over the decades and the tensions between capitalism and democracy came to the fore.
The challenge before American Democrats is to confront this question head on and offer futuristic solutions rather than lamenting over the lost order, which is far more arduous than harping on cultural questions. Attempts in that direction were feeble and guarded during the first primary debate.
Whether or not the U.S. will have a platform other than xenophobic populism to regroup will depend on how Democrats get their act together.
Source: The Hindu