"In many ways, Occupy Wall Street has come to the ballot box."
The Washington Post has an article by Zachary Goldfarb about progressives making a huge comeback in the Democratic Party. We have seen evidence of it with the election of progressive mayors in Seattle, Houston and New York City. In addition, liberals are coming together to support candidates in Democratic primaries for all sorts of local and state offices.
In New York, not only did Mayor-elect de Blasio win but so did a slate of very liberal/ progressive candidates for City Council.
Income inequality, raising the minimum wage, human rights issues, abortion, education, voting rights and equal pay for equal work are among the issues that are pushing the progressive agenda. In many ways, Occupy Wall Street has come to the ballot box.
For more than two years, President Obama has endorsed reducing Social Security payments as part of an ambitious deal to tame the national debt. But then Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — viewed by supporters on the left as a potential 2016 presidential candidate — embraced a far different proposal: increasing benefits for seniors.
As Obama struggles to achieve his second-term domestic agenda, a more liberal and populist voice is emerging within a Democratic Party already looking ahead to the next presidential election. The push from the left represents both a critique of Obama’s tenure and a clear challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party’s presumptive presidential front-runner, who carries a more centrist banner.
The left’s influence will be on display in coming weeks when a high-profile congressional committee formed after the government shutdown faces a deadline to forge a budget agreement. Under strong pressure from liberals, the panel has effectively abandoned discussion of a “grand bargain” agreement partly because it probably would involve cuts to Social Security.
“The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 — at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors — is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch,” Warren said recently on the Senate floor, announcing her support for a bill that would expand the program.
Liberals say Social Security is one example of how Democrats are likely to face sustained pressure in coming months to move in a more populist direction on a host of issues.
“The first Obama administration was focused too much on saving the banks and Wall Street,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a liberal who is retiring after four decades in Congress. “There’s going to be a big populist push on whoever’s running for office to espouse these kinds of progressive policies.”
Senate Democrats’ recent decision to abandon the filibuster for almost all nominees was a major victory for liberals, who had long championed the change, and paves the way for left-leaning nominees to join courts and helm agencies.
In addition, liberals have accelerated their push for a higher minimum wage — successfully persuading Obama to support a $10.10-an-hour proposal after he suggested $9 an hour this year. They also are making a case for tougher financial regulations, specifically targeting massive banks they would like to break up.
More broadly, liberals argue that the nation must do more to narrow economic inequality, to expand the safety net to help those who have lost jobs to globalization and to relieve some of the burden of student debt — goals that the president generally shares.
Obama’s defenders say he has a wide array of proposals to help the middle class that have been stymied by Republicans in Congress. Even his willingness to trim Social Security payments — by adopting a stricter formula for calculating benefits — includes protections for the poor, they note.
“It’s real things in the economy that Democrats have been too timid to address or Republicans have blocked them from addressing,” said longtime liberal activist Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future.