The United States, which for the last century has been a world reference for so many reasons, has never been characterized precisely as a source of learning for the left. Now it is. For a few years now, an ideological battle between leftists and moderates has been waged within the Democratic Party that is reminiscent of those that the European social democratic parties knew in the past, with the difference that, while they succumb today between caudillismo and confusion , the debate in the North American left is alive, stimulating and enriching for the country.
Donald Trump’s electoral victory in 2016 led Democrats, at the same time, to pessimism and radicalization. Mark Lilla explained a year later in a highly celebrated book, The Once and Future Liberal, that the traditional thinking of the left in favor of equal opportunities had been replaced by identity politics, in such a way that each one defends the rights of a minority and only those belonging to that particular group, supposedly discriminated against or persecuted, they are authorized to speak on behalf of that cause. “Kennedy’s challenge of ‘what can you do for your country?’”, Said Lilla, “has been replaced by the challenge of ‘what does my country owe me based on my identity?’
In the intellectual shadow of the rise of the movement wake On college campuses, candidates from the Democratic Party left were reaping success after success in the primaries, all with the support and inspiration of Bernie Sanders, who seemed unbeatable as the Democratic contender for the nation’s presidency. The young woman from the Bronx Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became a media star. Less than a year before the 2020 election, Joe Biden – a representative of what that section of the party criticized as old politics, the politics of restraint and compromise – seemed finished.
But the Democratic Party showed the ability to react. Terrified at the prospect of a Trump-Sanders duel (equivalent to a Fujimori-Castillo in the first world power), the Democratic apparatus mobilized thoroughly to redirect the vote over which it had the most control – blacks, Latinos, unions – in favor of Biden, who ended up winning the nomination and the White House.
The seizure of power by a man with a centrist trajectory who had been vice president and held a Senate seat for 36 years did not completely end the rise of the leftist sector, but it did reunite the party, at least formally, and gave a new verve to the moderates. Biden has tried from day one to preserve that unity, he has embraced with more or less discretion some of the flags of the left, such as that of the Black Lives Matter, and has agreed, with his public investment projects, to the complaints. of the radical sector of his party on social inequality.
These first five months of Biden’s presidency have therefore been one of placid coexistence between moderates and leftists in the Democratic Party. From now on, everything starts to get more complicated. Biden tries a style of government in which, without renouncing the audacity that the moment requires, he tries to advance without fanfare: his statements are calm and conciliatory, his gestures try to combine the necessary attention to those whom Trump mistreated with due respect. to those who voted for him. His negotiating instinct has appeared immediately and he tries by all possible means to agree on his transformative projects with the Republican Party, which will not be easy because North American conservatism is completely under Trump’s orders.
This behavior of the president is beginning to unsettle the left of the Democratic Party, an amalgam of dispersed and radicalized forces that, as one of its young representatives recently confessed, Max Berger, a Andrew Marantz en The New Yorker, observed with admiration the birth of Podemos in Spain and has tried to follow some of its footsteps. The Democratic left is pressing the president so that, by taking advantage of the party’s slim majority in the Senate (where Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote is needed to break the tie at 50 between the two parties), the long tradition of filibusterism and This prevents the Republicans from aborting the Government’s reforms.
That is just one of the fronts on which the battle between moderates and radicals on the American left will be fought, but there will be others: an ambitious environmental law with profound economic repercussions, laws on transgender rights, police and security reform. government, immigration reform and a variety of initiatives related to racial conflict. Currently under discussion in Congress there is a very controversial law that seeks to reverse at the federal level some decisions that the states under Republican control are taking on electoral matters.
The debate is open, rich and, of course, momentous. The left sees, perhaps for the first time in history, an opportunity to make its mark in the redesign of the American political system. The traditional democrats, who are still in the majority, especially in the institutions, believe that they will be able to contain the young rebels. The right is confident that this battle will end up destroying the Democratic Party and Trump will return to the presidency in four years. Some analysts are alarmed at the revolutionary tone that some Democratic proposals have reached. Others, like David Brooks, believe that, ultimately, the system will be able to assimilate these radical currents, as already happened in the sixties of the last century with movements such as the Black Panthers or the Nation of Islam.
Biden has so far managed to navigate the turmoil without losing an ounce of popularity. Aware that after four years of Trump, the last thing the country needs is more turmoil, he tries to lead calm change. It is too early to know if he will succeed, but, for now, the approach is enviable: the president has clearly set out a country model and tries to form a majority, inside and outside his party, to move it forward, convincing, not eliminating adversaries.
I do not know if this experience will be useful for the left in other latitudes. Certainly not in Latin America, where the left has long given over to authoritarian and undemocratic populism and every day it takes another step in that direction. But there are also some worrying signs in Spain. Those who lived through the unfortunate days that led to the rise of the supposed left in the PSOE will be able to testify to the level of the debate and the organic consequences that that process had. I am not sure whether the left would truly win the day in that case, but what is clear is that the triumphant leader imposed his authority without a shred of opposition.
Biden is subjected to severe scrutiny on a daily basis by the radical segment of his party, which, with the complicity of much of the progressive academy, is waiting for the moment to shout “treason!” It has nearly come to pass because of his position against illegal immigration. However, perhaps because of his age, the president is calm. He seems more interested in not making enemies than in gaining unwavering loyalties. Many Americans disagree with his policy, but few can deny that his management is helping to heal wounds, to unite the nation.