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Democrats lament daily the fearmongering generated by President Trump, and with good reason, but fearmongering is just as harmful when done by the Left. Moderates point to the divisions in the UK’s Labour Party, which they say resulted solely from leaders moving too far to the left, as a warning. If Democratic candidates similarly try to be too bold, we’ll break apart, too. We must work together, they insist, and stop fighting each other.

Fearmongering

While that conclusion is sound enough, the path to reach it is not the given they believe.

Suspiciously, the answer moderates give for resolving this dilemma always seems a bit self-serving. It’s always, “Hey, you guys! Stop supporting things I don’t like! Our only hope is that you give all your time and money and energy and votes to the things I like! Stop being selfish and give me what I want!”

Mainstream pundits never seem to say, “We’re in serious danger here. Centrist Democrats had better read the writing on the wall and move further to the left so we can stay unified.”

Mainstream pundits never seem to say, “We’re in serious danger here. Centrist Democrats had better read the writing on the wall and move further to the left so we can stay unified.”

No, it’s always the progressives who have to give in. Always.

Psychologically, humans have a natural tendency to stick with the tried and true when faced with danger. When the stakes are high, it’s not a time for experimenting. We’re not even conscious of our motivation to behave conservatively. The reaction is instinctive.

But perpetuating the status quo is no longer useful as an approach. When the danger of airplane hijackings required us to change our security measures, airlines built cockpit doors that couldn’t be forcibly opened from the cabin. Problem solved, right? Then a co-pilot for Germanwings locked the captain out so that he, rather than a traditional hijacker, could crash the plane. Because of the secure cockpit door, the captain was unable to enter and save the passengers and crew. Everyone died.

Moderates insist that the way Democrats won elections in the past is the way we’ll win in the future. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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Uh, guys, the status quo of the Democratic Party IS broken. Reinforcing that cockpit door to make it even more inaccessible from the cabin is exactly the wrong solution.

Centrists cry repeatedly, “We saw what happened in 2016. Too many progressives voted for progressives instead of moderates. We can’t let that disaster happen again.”

It’s rather like saying, “Remember when those people bought Tylenol laced with cyanide back in the early 1980’s? We must be careful and not buy products that have been poisoned.”

No. We realized immediately we had to start making products tamper-proof. Circumstances changed, and we adapted.

When the U.S. was struck in the 1930’s with the Dust Bowl, we changed the way we farmed. We didn’t go back to traditional farming strategies. The “safe” thing to do was adapt, not refuse to accept reality.

When fracking was first developed, it seemed like a good idea. Then we learned that the process permanently contaminated over 250 billion gallons of water and even caused earthquakes. So we stopped and moved on to safer fuel sources.

Oh, wait. We’ve chosen instead to continue down a massively destructive path.

Is this the model the Democratic Party wants to follow? Since moderate Democrats still accept money from the fossil fuel industry and still support that industry through their votes in Congress, fracking is illustrative on at least two fronts.

Yes, progressives can agree with centrists that what happened in 2016 was a monumental disaster. But the way to prevent a recurrence is not to go back to the inadequate policies that guaranteed such a disaster in the first place. We need to be unified, that’s clear, but the direction to move is not backward. We must move forward.

Johnny Townsend

Johnny Townsend