Moving Left?

MOVING LEFT?….Matt Yglesias remains bitter about Ralph Nader’s spoiler role in the 2000 election, but also has this to say:

On the other hand, one of the memes floating about in the Nadersphere has, I think, been vindicated: Namely the basically Leninist idea that a Democratic loss and a period of Republican governance would pull the Democrats in a more progressive direction in terms of, for example, questioning “Washington Consensus” globalization. At the time, that argument didn’t make sense to me. And in some important ways I still don’t think it makes a ton of sense logically. But it does seem to be what’s happened. Now, was that a price worth paying for the dead in Iraq, the torture, etc.? I don’t really think so.

Steve Benen and Isaac Chotiner have some comments about this, but I have a question: Is Matt’s basic premise even true? Is the Democratic Party more generally progressive today than it was six years ago?

There’s not much question that Democrats (and liberals in general) are more aggressive today than they were in the year 2000. Six years of George Bush and Tom DeLay will do that to you. But on a policy level, are John Kerry and Hillary Clinton more progressive than Al Gore? Is Barack Obama further left than Bill Bradley, Gore’s primary challenger in 2000? Is the team of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid noticably more liberal than Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle? (ADA scores here.) Are congressional Democrats taking a less hawkish line on Iran than they did on Iraq in 2002? Are they more willing to take action to make the tax system more genuinely progressive? Or to seriously tackle universal healthcare?

I’m genuinely agnostic on this issue. Comments are very definitely solicited. On a surface level, today’s Democrats do seem a bit further left on some subjects than they were in 2000, but I’m not really sure it’s more than skin deep. After all, Hillary Clinton’s doomed 1994 healthcare plan is still more progressive than anything on the agenda of the current crop of presidential contenders. Where’s the progress?

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