Things are getting a little testy in the Democratic Party these days. Just months into the presidency of Joe Biden that they all worked so hard for, the Party of Jefferson and Jackson is slipping into outright civil war. At first, the center of this factional fighting was West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who refuses to blow up the filibuster, much to the chagrin of the progressive set. But now there is even more.
On Tuesday, darling of the far left Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tore into Vice President Kamala Harris for daring to tell Central Americans not to illegally storm the US border. AOC had this to say to Harris, the sudden border hawk: “… the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.”
Most of the media will play down this schism. But this division is a real problem for the Democratic Party. The border is a disaster, and an issue where polling puts Biden underwater. Harris’ tough talk is meant to stop the bleeding — but that can’t happen while AOC is advocating that we erect a turnstile into Texas.
These internal disputes — Manchin’s refusal to change the rules for the sake of slamming through progressive legislation and Harris holding a shiny new stop sign at the border — have something in common. They both reveal a stark contrast between the side of the party that wants to transform almost all of America right now, and another that takes a slower, more traditional approach to political power
Biden was successful during his basement campaign in presenting himself as a traditional moderate who was open to the ideas of the far left, but willing to work with the right. That was always a dicey proposition, but hatred of Donald Trump made his voters think it could work. Now the fault lines are fracturing and the earthquake is coming. The divisions between the moderates and the progressives in the Democratic Party aren’t just troubling, they are existential.
For all the talk of the Republican split in recent months, that conflict fizzled rather quickly. The GOP caucus is unified with the exception of a handful of bloody-minded objectors who make their living on liberal cable news networks. But the Democratic civil war is real and it is spectacular.
Increasingly it appears that the days of the old-timey Joes, Biden and Manchin, are slipping away. In its stead, a new progressive faction of the party has all the zeitgeist. For vulnerable Democrats in purple 2022 districts, this could spell disaster. But the AOCs of the world don’t seem to care. They are willing to lose elections if it means winning the soul of the party.
As far as the Republicans are concerned, well, they love to see it.
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