today in black history

April 14, 2024

Elston Howard becomes the first Black player on the New York Yankees baseball team on this date in 1955.

Too Far Left is the Only Path to Justice

POSTED: November 18, 2019, 7:00 am

  • POST
    • Add to Mixx!
  • Text Size
  • PDF

Former President Barack Obama created a stir this past week when he cautioned the Democratic Party to not veer too far left in the selection of its candidate in the 2020 presidential election. The implication is that Democrats need to nominate a moderate candidate to oust Donald Trump from the White House in November 2020. The former president also suggested that most Americans do not support systemic change.

I beg to differ. The ‘play it safe’ politics of the status quo has run its course. For Democrats to have any hopes of taking back the White House the party must stand behind a radically progressive agenda that unpacks income inequality, tames wealth disparities and confronts systemic racism in public education, higher education, criminal justice and economic opportunity. Taking the safe path will further exacerbate inequality and condemn Generation Z to a lifetime of the civil misery we now encounter. This is very much the time for a break from the status quo and a bold walk on the wild side of social change and upheaval.

What I find shocking in former President Obama’s assertion and appeal for moderation is that America itself is an idea that many considered ‘too far left.’ This is a nation founded by a group of radical white men who thumbed their noses at their homeland, refused to pay their tax obligations to their government, disavowed their King and seized property owned by their native land to create their own country. It does not get more radical or far left than that. Yet, the idea of universal health care, free college or progressive taxation is seen as pushing the envelope.

This is what we have come to. We are now a nation of ‘don’t rock the boat’ complacency. Where we once believed that capitalism was fuel for economic mobility, we now accept it as cement to seal the fate of the poor and working class. Where Franklin Roosevelt saw government as a means to strengthen America, expand its reach and build its infrastructure, today our nation’s communities are isolated and our infrastructure is in disrepair. Social Security, Medicare, and the Fair Housing Act are all examples of programs and policies that many consider ‘too far left’ but left America much closer in reality to the facsimile presented on parchment. Going even further back in time, Radical Republicans sought to exorcize the demons of slavery and racism from the nation’s soul. For a scant 13 years, America worked to live up to its ideals. We have had moments in our nation’s history when we took a hard left and came out all the better for it.

We are at such a moment again. Democrats only hope in 2020 is to put forth a vision radically different than the apocalypse the current president has conjured up. This is not a Democratic or Republican window of opportunity. Wide swaths of the electorate are suffering and drowning in hopelessness, with no distinction by party or zip code. Generations ascendant are clear in their expectation for action on climate change, protection of immigrants, gun control and criminal justice reform. If Democrats do not seize this moment, it will be lost to the party forever and we will see a new political alignment arise in the aftermath of the election. As much as Trump’s back is against the wall, the Democratic Party is also facing a moment of truth.

The safe route, as suggested by former President Obama, is a dead end this election cycle for Democrats. It worked in 2008 and to some degree in 2012, but imploded the party in 2016. I saw it firsthand in Philadelphia in 2016 on the floor at the Democratic National Convention. While Hillary Clinton walked away the nominee, the party left Philadelphia disjointed over its direction. Since then, the most significant victories and near victories for the party have come through candidates who have defied conventional wisdom and offered an alternative vision for restorative justice and economics. This is the foundation for the success of congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, and the likely but denied victory of Stacey Abrams in the Georgia gubernatorial race.

Every electoral season has a recipe for success. What worked for Democrats and Bill Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008, will not work in 2020. It’s a different time with a different expectation. That should have been clear after the 2016 debacle. This time around voters are expecting real change and not the political equivalent of ‘new Coke.’

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

Related References on Facebook