Many times in our current political discourse, we forget that our political parties are not monolithic. There are wide ranges of policy views within both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Below is a brief overview of the current factions of the Democratic Party, where the four outside factions (Very and Super Progressives, Moderates, and Conservative Democrats) are trying to pull leadership and many of the presidential candidates closer to their side, according to Perry Bacon Jr. at FiveThirtyEight.com.|
The Super Progressives is a group that is very progressive in both their economic policies and social policies. For example, individuals in this bloc tend to support policies like Medicare for All, which they believe would put all Americans on a more equal footing. They also hold very liberal positions on issues like immigration and abolishing ICE. They are considered the most “anti-establishment” Democrats, who will fight back not only against Republicans, but also Democrats when they feel as if the party’s positions do not go far enough. The most high-profile examples include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA), Rep Rashida Tlaib (MI) and Rep. Mark Pocan (WI).
The next group is designated the Very Progressives. These individuals are also very liberal on economic issues, and skeptical of the Democratic establishment. They are less liberal on social issues than the Super Progressives, and also tend to work with the Democratic establishment better than the Super Progressives. Overall though, their focus is on economic liberalism. Examples of this kind of progressive are Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. The reason that Senators Sanders and Warren are not in the group of Super Progressives is because they are so focused on economic progressivism, that some social issues fall by the wayside.
The Progressive New Guard is also quite liberal, but tries to appear closer to the political center for “electability” purposes. These individuals tend to be reactionary to the more progressive wings of the party rather than driving their own specific ideologies. However, this group is different from the groups further to the right and from the ones further to the left because they want to appeal to white, working-class swing voters as well as progressive millennials and minority voters. Prominent politicians that fit into the Progressive New Guard include Sen. Kamala Harris (CA), Sen. Cory Booker (NJ), South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (TX) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (TX).
The Progressive Old Guard is not really different than the Progressive New Guard in terms of policy; however, they are different in the way they present themselves to the world. The Old Guard is made up mainly of Democratic leaders—Former VP Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA). These people tend to present as more moderate, as a way to appeal to Midwestern swing voters. They also tend to question more progressive policies, again like Medicare for All, asking how specifically the plan will be paid for and implemented.
The Moderates tend to be from purple districts, and they tend to be more conservative on economic policies, and somewhat liberal on social issues. However, like the Super Progressives, they tend to be anti-establishment, though in a different way. The Moderates will not stick with the party line just because they are told to—they are willing to vote with the GOP if the measure is something that would be good for their constituents. These members then get criticism from Pelosi and the Super Progressives, which can be helpful in their competitive districts where Pelosi and progressives like Rep. Ocasio-Cortez are less popular. Examples of this category of Democrat include Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Rep. Conor Lamb (PA) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA).
The final wing of the Democratic Party is the Conservative Democrats. This group is not very progressive on either economic or cultural issues, and often come from conservative areas. Though there are few Democrats in this faction, and it is furthest away from the current, more progressive vision of the Democratic Party, it is important because they are able to better compromise with the GOP and put through more liberal policies in conservative areas, for example, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards was able to expand Medicaid to over 400,000 people. Another notable Conservative Democrat is Sen. Joe Manchin (WV).
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