If you believe the corporate media, “progressives” everywhere are just ripping tufts of hair out of their heads bemoaning Tuesday’s primary wins by several supposedly “Centrist” and “Establishment candidates,” such as Gretchen Whitmer, running for Governor of Michigan. There has been no shortage of concerned analysis in the last 48 hours about the supposed “fracture” within “competing” factions of the Democratic Party, and whose “message” will ultimately win over voters. For example, here’s Dave Weigel from the Washington Post:
The Democratic Party’s left-wing insurgency found its limits Tuesday night, with voters favoring establishment candidates over more liberal challengers in almost every closely watched race across several states.
Weigel specifically refers to Whitmer as an “establishment” candidate. As we all know, for progressives, “Establishment” is about as evil an appellation as can be imagined in this year of righteous bartenders becoming overnight political superstars. And Republicans, of course, are lapping this up, crowing about so-called “defeats” for liberalism every time a Democrat with the furthest left-leaning platform doesn’t magically prevail in a primary contest.
But Ian Millhiser, the chief legal analyst and Justice Editor for Think Progress, points out that this line of thinking is, for the most part, a load of hogwash. Using Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer as an example, he demonstrates how far the left has come in moving the goalposts (or the Overton Window, if you prefer) to embrace the progressive agenda.
A quick look at Whitmer’s website vividly illustrates just how much things have changed in the last five years. She supports Medicaid expansion throughout the state, boosting teacher’s salaries, more funding to Planned Parenthood, expansion of health care services to poor and rural Michigan residents, eliminating oil pipelines in the Great Lakes, ending Citizens United, legalizing marijuana for recreational use (which she touted at Ann Arbor’s “Hash Bash”), expanding civil rights legislation to cover transgender citizens, disallowing so-called “religious freedom” legislation that allows bullying of children, legislating against bullying, banning job discrimination against felons, a multitude of pro-urban policies designed to assist lower income people, universal pre-school, “consent” education in public schools to end sexual harassment, and much more.
There. That’s your “establishment” now.
Yes, she did run against Abdul El-Sayed, who received support from Bernie Sanders and touted a localized single-payer health care plan that Millhiser notes would probably not work:
[T]hat is very difficult to implement at the state level because of the risk that sick people will rush into states with such health plans, eventually making it unaffordable.
But on pretty much everything else, Gretchen Whitmer is fundamentally indistinguishable from Elizabeth Warren, or any “progressive Democrat,” for that matter.
So for those on the left who are actually crying about Tuesday’s results (if, in fact, any such folks exist), well, maybe, just maybe, they should pause and take stock. Believe it or not, that’s a privilege generally afforded to those who have already won:
[Y]es, Michigan Democrats did not choose the leftmost candidate on Tuesday. But that choice should not obscure just how far the party has moved to the left. And, in the long run, that bodes very well for Democratic progressives.
The way to realign the Democratic Party isn’t just to run insurgent candidates who occasionally upset the party’s establishment. The way to move the Democratic Party to the left is for progressives to become the party’s establishment. They are well on their way to achieving this goal.
By now the Democratic “establishment” isn’t a threat to the left.
It is the left.