What’s interesting is that the moderate wing of the Democratic party seems to have missed this shift entirely. The triangulation they offer—pro-Wall Street, pro-business, pro-trade, pro-growth—is a relic of an earlier era, when Republican voters actually believed that the best way to achieve broad prosperity was by a dramatic unleashing of economic markets. In 2016, Republican primary voters threw the supply-siders out on their ear; in 2019, moderate Democrats are still kissing the ring.
When it comes to the cultural concerns the Right primarily cares about today—life issues, say, or religious liberty—supposedly moderate Democrats have frequently failed to offer any concessions, even as a matter of optics. In fact, they’ve often turned to such issues as a way to make up lost ground, so to speak—to reassure progressives that they aren’t too moderate to be permitted to carry the Democratic banner. (Picture, for instance, the way some of the 2020 field’s other ostensible moderates, such as Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg, have declined to distance themselves from the 2019 blue-state fad of removing their last vestiges of restrictions on late-stage abortions, opting instead to offer mealy-mouthed platitudes about how, at all times and in all places, decisions about the life of a fetus should be left to a mother and her chosen medical professional.
It isn’t hard to see why, all this being so, the progressive argument that moderate Democratic politics is a program of futile self-cuckery carries so much weight. Trying to be “moderate” doesn’t mean beans if one hasn’t accurately assessed what one’s opponents want and why. In 2016, Hillary Clinton exemplified this sour-spot approach, irritating progressives by playing up her capitalist bona fides one day, infuriating working-class Trump voters by talking smack about the “deplorables” the next. In her tone-deaf attempt to play the moderate, she merely ended up alienating critical parts of both sides.