Bill de Blasio’s victory in the Democratic primary in the New York City mayoral election is just the latest sign. Throw in Larry Summers dropping out of contention to head the federal reserve, Obama's coming push on climate change and Elizabeth Warren’s viral popularity, and you start to see the pattern: the new left is going mainstream.
The movement really started with the Howard Dean campaign in 2004. No longer in power, the Democratic Party was looking for their voice, and Dean came closer than most remember to representing the Democrats against a second term of George W. Bush. The Democrats went with the more status quo choice of Kerry that year, but the populist power simmered, and burst forth again to topple Hillary Clinton with the incredible oratory and organizing ability of Barack Obama.
Still, the center held the gravity, and though Obama may have some leftist policy leanings, he’s a political centrist, and the left has been largely disappointed with his presidency.
Now, as the Democratic party subconsciously puts out feelers for where to go after the Obama presidency, the left is rising once again. The days of Rahm Emanuel cursing out progressive groups for not getting in line behind the centrist healthcare bill now known as Obamacare are over. There is a rising sentiment that is covering more and more of the Democratic base: Washington works for the people, not the banks and big corporations.
This was Bill de Blasio’s message that propelled him to victory in New York. It’s what derailed the likely nomination of Summers, someone who spent the 90s arguing for deregulation of the banks. William Daley called off a primary challenge to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn after attacks about Daley’s ties to the banks proved too damaging.
It remains to be seen if this sentiment is enough to nominate a truly progressive candidate for President. The Democrats may end up feeling safer with an establishment candidate like Hillary Clinton, but only if Hillary learns from 2008 and runs a campaign with plenty of populist flair. Otherwise, the voters may realize that Martin O’Malley, Elizabeth Warren or a name we don’t know or haven’t guessed yet is saying what they actually want to hear.