“Hues of Blue” is a three-part series in which each article will focus on an issue facing the Democratic Party, and the opinion of a Hopkins student as it pertains to the Party’s actions. The goal of this project is to highlight the complexity behind the label “liberal.” What different philosophies govern the political beliefs of the members of the Johns Hopkins University, an institution lauded for its progressiveness and inclusivity?
Dressed in dark purple, Secretary Clinton looked elegant and poised giving her concession speech. Social scientists pointed out that the hue of violet that she and former President Clinton had donned for the occasion represented royalty. Although the United States does not have a ruling family, the political affairs of the nation have always seemed to be influenced by the whims of the Clintons, even after their departure from the White House. And, in that moment, as a defeated Clinton took the podium outside the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan, it seemed as if the Clinton Era had started to come to an end, and that the Democrats had learned their lesson: a leading member of their corporate wing does not appeal to a great percentage of the constituents they once confidently held.
Many of Clinton’s losses in the Blue Wall States were so unexpected because a Republican candidate had not carried certain counties in decades. Trump won the historically Democratic counties of Saginaw, Bay, and Gogebic in Michigan, the latter of which had not voted for the GOP since 1972 (National Review). The voters in these regions are largely white workers who have “lost their jobs” to workers overseas and to automation in the United States. These non-college-educated workers view corporate-centric policies and the enforcers of these policies with suspicion; Secretary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street did not sit well with them. however, they were attracted by Senator Sanders’ message of bringing jobs back to the United States. His loss in the primary pushed these voters to break party lines and vote for Donald Trump, who, unlike the Democratic establishment candidate, appeared to have the ability to “bring the jobs back!” (with an exclamation point). Trump played on the message of protectionism that Senator Sanders preached. However, Sanders never intended for Trump to enable deep seated racism to surface when discussing the outsourcing of American jobs.
Johns Hopkins freshman Frank Guerriero noted this nationalistic twist: “Unabashed protectionism is dangerous; there’s a lot of racial undertones.” Guerriero, who serves as Secretary of the Hopkins College Democrats, is a registered Democrat who voted for Senator Sanders in the primary and Secretary Clinton in the general election. And, in contrast to Aurel Malapani’s opinions on the Party, Guerriero believes in the future of the Democrats. “I don’t think that the Democratic Party is dead, or useless,” he told me. “Progressives do have a home here in the Party,” he added, referencing a comment Malapani made in a previous interview.
Younger voters, in addition to the people who feel betrayed by the Democrats – the non-college educated workers of the Appalachians and the Ozarks – are dissatisfied with the remnants of the Clinton Era. Corporate money should have no place in a democracy - especially in the Democratic Party, which claims to fight for the middle class. This point was most recently demonstrated by the election of Tom Perez to Chairman of the DNC. “If we accept the premise that the DNC is a group that has constituents,” Guerriero started, then “ No, the DNC is not listening to its constituents.” Like Malapani, Guerriero argues that the move to appoint a neoliberal Democrat to one of the highest positions in the Democratic hierarchy indicates that the Party has yet to learn from the mistakes it made. But, “I think I have a little more faith in Perez than other people do because of his gestures thus far towards Keith Ellison and the Sanders Democrats. It’s a wonderful PR job, but it’s yet to be seen that that’s being put into practice,” he added.
Guerriero remains hopeful about the future of the Party he says he will continue to support. “There will be another Democrat president,” he confidently asserted. “Because if the left would split, it would’ve done so already.” Since the nomination of Hillary Clinton, the party has made significant strides in appealing to the left – delegates from both the Clinton and Sanders camps worked together to pass platform amendments to fight for a $15 federal minimum wage, adopt progressive immigration reform and legalize marijuana. Senator Sanders understands that the power of the Democratic Party is what will allow him to get his message across; the party is the perfect platform for him to disseminate his message to a greater audience. At the same time, more moderate Democrats are coming out in support of the “far left” ideologies of the Sanders Democrats; Chuck Schumer, the epitome of the centrist Democrat, has proven this shift. “Back in 2010, ‘Obamacare Lite’ [as the GOP’s replacement for Obamacare is so often called] would’ve been acceptable to Schumer, but now it’s totally unacceptable,’ Guerriero notes. “He [Schumer] is recognizing that he can’t continue to do what he does without the far left.”
“The party is doing some soul-searching; getting out of the post-election depression and funk,” Guerriero said.
“Hopefully the soul-searching hints that the party should move more to the left,” I told him.
“The party is not some amorphous, godly blur in the sky that is operating independently of what anyone thinks. It’s the people of the party; when we move left, they will move left,” he countered.
The party of the people. But what people? The bankers on Wall Street, or the workers in the Ozarks? These two constituencies represent opposite ends of the economic spectrum in the United States. In order to secure the presidency in the future, the Democratic Party must buckle down on who it wishes to see at the polls, and how to attract those voters. A move to the social and economic left will attract many younger voters, and a move to give more voice and representation to the common American worker will allow the Democrats to pick up the voters it lost. A seemingly anti-establishment candidate is what the people desire, as affirmed in the recent presidential election. Democrats like Guerriero, who realize the importance of a more progressive platform, are making their voices heard. Ultimately, the Democrats will have to choose between two options: listen to the pleas of the people, or bend to the will of corporate donors.
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