Want Party Unity? Here's the Secret to Understanding Bernie Supporters

Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:42:10AM

Senator Sanders delivering his stump speech at a rally in Portland, ORBy: Benjamin Kerensa

Shortly after President Obama was first inaugurated, Nate Silver wrote an article titled The Two Progressivisms. Understanding the difference between the two can go a long way towards bridging the divide between Bernie and Hillary supporters as we head towards November.

Reformative vs. Transformative

There are many differences between the rational and radial progressives, as Nate Silver refers to them in his article, but this is potentially the one that's most evident.

Rational progressives tend to be reformative. They are willing to compromise on contentious issues in order to move the ball forward, even if that means moving the ball forward at a slower pace than they would like. Secretary Clinton would fall into this camp of progressives. She may have many of the views of the radical progressives, but understands that compromise is key to getting anything accomplished in Washington.

Radical progressives; on the other hand, tend to be transformative. They believe that the only way real change can be accomplished is by disrupting the status quo. Senator Sanders presidential campaign was a perfect example of transformative progressivism. His call for a political revolution galvanized a large portion of the Democratic base that feels progress has been too slow and has only benefited a portion of the electorate while ignoring the rest.

Both sides often have the same goals, but how they achieve those goals and at what pace those goals are achieved are the main drivers between the reformative and transformative wings.

Technocratic vs. Populist

The 2016 primary between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders shone a bright light on these two camps of the party. Secretary Clinton is the as close to the literal definition of a technocrat as they come. She has been in politics her entire life and ran her campaign by promising to be a steady hand steering the giant wheel that is the United States of America. She's surrounded herself with advisers and experts that have been around for a long time and we can only assume she would do the same if she were to be elected in November.

Senator Sanders is the polar opposite of this approach. His message of populism struck a chord with many disaffected voters who think believe that the "experts" have had too much control in American politics. He has railed against the political elites, disdains the "billionaire class," and has called for a "political revolution" in America. Those are all populist messages that undoubtedly struck a chord with millions of his followers.

Outcome-Oriented vs. Process-Oriented

This one isn't discussed as much, but it is just as important to understand if we are to understand the difference between the two camps of progressives. Both rational and radical progressives share many of the same beliefs, but how those beliefs become law are how we differ.

Rational progressives tend to be outcome-oriented. In their eyes a small win is better than no win at all. Secretary Clinton is an outcome-oriented candidate. She believes that moving the ball forward a few feet is better than keeping the ball in place. It may not be exactly what she had hoped for, but it is better than nothing.

Radical progressives are much more process-oriented. They think politicians on the left go to the negotiating table ready to give up too much before any negotiations get underway. Senator Sanders has shown that he is a process-oriented progressive in his many campaign appearances during the 2016 primary. He would tell his supporters everything he wanted to get done, but didn't spend much time explaining how these things would be accomplished. It was more about the process of things rather than achieving any eventual outcome.

Battle of Ideas vs. Battle of Wills

The two camps of progressives agree on the vast majority of policy. That has never been up for debate. However, one of the main differences between the two camps is how the two sides view politics in general and how to turn their policy ideas into law.

Rational progressives view politics as a battle of ideas and that those ideas need to be compared and contrasted with the other side of the aisle. They take those ideas to the general public and try to convince enough people that they should line up behind them. Radical progressives have an entirely different approach. They see political battles as a battle of wills. Who will blink first and what side will win or lose?

A debate exchange between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders during the primary is perhaps the best way to explain the differences between the two camps. The candidates were asked if they supported fracking in the United States. Senator Sanders simply answered "no," but Secretary Clinton gave a far more nuanced and detailed response explaining her views on fracking and that it's a lot more complicated than a one word answer.

As you can see, Democrats agree on the vast majority of issues. It's how we go about accomplishing them that has been a dividing factor between the two factions of the party. Secretary Clinton has extended an olive branch to the radical progressives by putting many of their priorities in the Democratic platform at this years convention and Senator Sanders has done his part by enthusiastically endorsing Secretary Clinton and asking his supporters to stand with him.

Now it's on Democrats of all stripes to do their part and convince those progressives who are on the fence that we must vote for Secretary Clinton this November.

3 Recommendations

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7.2k 32 66 11 4 Colorado Springs, CO

1878 days ago
Replies (0)
Being either a reformative or a transformative progressive also implies that as a progressive, that real “progress” can realistically be made given the reality of the political situation. With the current political divide in our country, more progressivism can be accomplished under reformative presidents as any gains, no matter how small, are considered successes.

The radical progressives, on the other hand, often have a populist and idealistic appeal, but in the end they can fall short of their goals because their worldviews are enslaved by their demands for political purity, e.g. no compromises. No compromises translate into no progress.

There are also “in between” characteristics where one can be both transformative, depending on the opportunity, but otherwise function day-to-day as a reformer. That describes President Obama and his list of progressive accomplishments.
2.7k 0 3 5 0 Durham, NH

1881 days ago
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I can agree with much of this but Hillary leans Progresive on social causes but when it comes to business and the economy she is a true neo-liberal. A moderate, conservative old time Republican who, like many others, grew disillusioned with the Republican Party when it became infested with Southern reconstrutionists. Back in the 60's, in response to this, many people switched their party alligence. Liberal, moderate Republicans became Democrats and in return conservative Democrats became Republicans. If you Everett wondered why liberal, moderate Republicans are as scarce as hens teeth, this is the reason. The Democrats have simply become the socially liberal and moderate side of the a Republican Party and today's Progressives represent what's left of the true liberal Democrats before the 60's.

Many (most) Democrats are loath to admit this, as witnessed by so called "dyed in the wool Democrats", that are regular posters on the democratichub but that doesn't change reality.
1880 days ago
Replies (0)
I think you're painting a broad brush stroke on a very complicated subject. Yes, many southern Democrats switched to the Republican Party in the 1960's. And yes, many moderate Republicans crossed parties and joined the Democrats. But anyone who loves to study American history knows that those kind of crossovers have happened throughout the past two centuries.

I think it's also important to remember that the Democratic Party used to be the party of the *white* working man. They really didn't care much about anyone else. The "glory days" of the 1930's, 40's, and 50's Democratic Party really only worked for white people while completely ignoring women and minorities. It was also before the technological revolution that is only going to continue moving forward.

Some Democrats just can't bring themselves to admit that fact. Certain manufacturing jobs are not going to come back. That's just a fact. Certain well paying union jobs are not going to come back. That is also a fact.