Since its 2016 election disaster, the Democratic Party has undergone some subtle changes. While career establishment politicians such as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi may still be formally leading the party, new movements like the Women’s March, #Resist, and the salient rise of self-proclaimed socialists in the party have marked some areas of change.
It is clear that the Democrats are trying to work out of the Republican playbook of Obama’s first term, using the #Resist movement as their version of the Tea Party and inserting their own progressive, often socialist flavors of anti-establishment populism in lew of nationalism, conservatism, and libertarian ideals of the Tea Party.
The Democratic Party hopes that this new energy could turn the political tides, flip seats in the House and Senate in 2018, and breathe new life into the desolate party in time for the 2020 elections. However, while the Tea Party was able to resurrect the dying Republican Party of 2008 and push it towards a House majority in 2010 onward, a Senate majority from 2014 onward, and the election of Donald Trump, the Democrats have little to no chance in doing the same.
There is a key difference in between the Tea Party movement of the first term of Obama and the #Resist movement of Trump’s first term. True, they may share anti-establishment, populist rhetoric but the Tea Party had something #Resist will never have; precedent.
As silly as it was when Tea Partiers dressed up as colonials, they were making a broader point; the ideas that the Tea Party held had a history of success in the Republican Party and the United States. From the Revolutionary War up to more recent and relevant examples like the Reagan Revolution, conservatism, nationalism, and constitutionalism in intertwined with the values and history of the United States.
The #Resist movement can make no such claim. Their key ideals; socialism, progressivism, and intersectionality have never been popular in the United States. Likewise, anti-establishmentism has never flourished among the Democrats as it has with Republicans.
Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, and Barry Goldwater are three candidates who were considered wildly anti-establishment who have won presidential nominations from the Republican Party in the last fifty years.
While the Democratic Party has also given their nomination to three anti-establishment candidates; Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and George McGovern, it is a different story. Clinton was an appeal from the middle, not from the left. Obama started out anti-establishment but was forced in line after his nomination, making peace with the Clintons and giving his primary opponent Hillary Clinton the position of Secretary of State.
McGovern was the only through-and-through anti-establishment populism, a borderline socialist whose ideas are clearly reflected in the #Resist movement. McGovern, however, was handed the worst landslide defeat in the history of the United States in 1972, winning only Massachusetts and DC and only 37.5% of the popular vote.
Unlike the Tea Party, the #Resist movement has no precedent to stand on. Their ideas have never been popular among Americans and their history one of defeat and rejection. For this reason, Democrats will continue to falter until they find the next Bill Clinton; someone who can pull the party out of the far-left and back into relevance just as Clinton did in 1992.