If the center of political gravity in the Democratic Party (as well as the larger democratic coalition) was leaning in a progressive direction six months ago, the Democratic Party convention tells us that this tendency has become more pronounced due to the force of an unforeseen and deadly pandemic, an imploding economy, the uprising in response to the police killing of George Floyd, and the fascistic shadings of the Trump administration and his base.
In other words, today’s Democratic Party isn’t the party of Bill Clinton. Nor is it in the tight grip of neoliberalism. The latter, if we understand as a particular mode of accumulation and political governance, had considerable sway among Democrats in the last two decades of the 20th century. But by the time of the Great Recession of 2008, its advocates were fewer in number and are still fewer today. The Democratic Party that will face off against Trump and his Republican gang is far more diverse and complicated. As it tacks in a progressive direction, it contains multiple tendencies at the leadership and mass levels that are fluid, permeable, and grow and shrink, depending on the issues and conditions at hand.
Only by collapsing moderates, liberals, and even some progressives into the neoliberal camp or by declaiming that anyone who embraces anything less the demands of the “insurgent wing” of the Democratic Party is a neoliberal can a case be made that neoliberalism retains anywhere near the same influence that it did two decades ago. Not only is this a faulty conflation, but, if embraced by too many, will lead to a politics that doesn’t match the moment, too static when it should be fluid, too narrow when it should be expansive, too subjective when it should be sober minded and strategic. And who needs that with the most important election in arguably the country’s history roughly two months?