STORY BY DANIEL SAENZ
For lack of a better word, the political landscape in the United States has been rather turbulent recently. We have experienced a government shutdown over Trump and the Democrats’ dispute over the President’s proposed border wall. Because the Democrats would not agree to approve government funding that would include funding the wall, Trump decided to shut down the government. After days of federal employees going without pay, Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise and reopened the government. Despite the end of the shutdown, a new wave of hot button issues has flared up.
To further muddy the waters, the left-wing of the Democratic Party, consisting of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Elizabeth Warren, have started talking about larger amount of marginal tax rates on the very wealthy. This, however, stands in stark contrast to centrist Joe Biden types who openly consider it brag-worthy that they align with Republicans on most issues. This ties into a larger issue that looms over the election: the fractured left.
“The Democratic Primary is going to be a long, grueling campaign. It is going to be a war of attrition amongst the Democrats,” said Dr. Jay Steinmetz, a professor of Political Science at Fort Hays State University. “There is a similar divide among the Democrats much like in the primary of 2016 between the leftist Bernie Sanders wing and centrist liberal Hillary Clinton/Joe Biden wing.”
In this upcoming primary, Tulsi Gabbard, Sanders, and Warren are representing the left wing of the Democratic Party. Then, there are the establishment Democrats such as Beto O’Rourke and Biden. Dr. Steinmetz noted that fellow Democratic presidential hopeful, Kamala Harris, will be a bit of an outlier.
“Kamala Harris will be an interesting bridge in some way,” he said. “I was actually surprised by the early criticism against her career as a prosecutor to criminal justice and criminal law and her ruthless, no tolerance approach to criminalization of drugs.”
As later noted by Steinmetz, a bipartisan bill on criminal justice reform was recently passed in Congress. He adds that Harris could face a great deal of backlash on that issue during the primary season despite having a fairly solid liberal record and being an experienced and seasoned senator. While Tulsi Gabbard has ties to shady foreign organizations such as the Syrian Social National Party and the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, this should not be a huge factor as foreign policy concerns do not really resonate with voters.
“Even when there are disastrous wars. I mean, look at the Pew Gallup in 2006 at the low end of the Iraq War, and yet the average American voters are still talking about healthcare, taxes, and immigration,” said Steinmetz.
Another interesting point that he makes is that the Democratic Party will have a hard time supporting a white man as a candidate, which will serve as a roadblock to people like Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. In a sense, there is a generational backlash from younger Millennials. So, this new trend could possibly favor both female and minority candidates.
There is also the issue of what issues the Democratic Party will run on. Will they focus on economic issues such as the ones championed by Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders, and Warren — such as a 70% marginal tax rate they have proposed? Or, will they try to fight Trump on immigration and the wall? Whatever happens, the main takeaway so far is that there will be a great deal of division and conflict during the primary season.