Why are Democrats less progressive? Follow the money

Donna Brazile appears on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July 2016.
Donna Brazile appears on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July 2016. AP file

Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts begs the central question of why the center-right party finds itself adrift in the political sea (“Democrats need to move to the left,” Viewpoints, Oct. 16). Wrongly, he faults “high-powered operatives who’ve led the party into its present cul de sac.”


His analysis is unhelpful. Democratic Party operatives such as Donna Brazile and James Carville who Pitts blames are hired help. They are symptoms of a larger problem.

To understand why it produces political operatives by, of and for center-right politics, to make sense of why the party of the New Deal and Great Society moved to the right, we have to follow the money. Otherwise, we are chasing our tail.

As the slices of economic pie have shifted from the bottom and middle to the top, political power has coalesced around the fortunate few. The Democratic Party’s movement from the left to the right is a symptom of inequality, which “has not always been a feature of the U.S. economy,” write Jay Shambaugh, Ryan Nunn, Patrick Liu and Greg Nantz of The Hamilton Project at The Brookings Institute.

The Democrats’ leftward politics produced the relative economic equality of an earlier era. Its reversal is a symptom of the party’s rightward drift to the interests of the 1 percent (Wall Street) and away from the 99 percent (Main Street). Follow the money.

Pitts ignores this fact. Therefore, he is unable to shed useful light on why there is a paucity of any genuinely progressive plank within the blue party.

Economics shapes politics. To change that equation requires more than finding new progressive-sounding messaging. Rather, we need to build a movement. Such mobilization drove Democrats to sign New Deal and Great Society legislation that more recent and current center-right Democrats disfavor.

Seth Sandronsky is a journalist and member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. He can be contacted at