User login

Join The Debate

Cast your vote and join the conversation.

Membership is free.

Get Started

Progressive Populism Will Save the Democratic Party

Progressive Populism
The BriefGet Up To Speed

As Democratic leaders and strategists gear up for the 2018 and 2020 elections, the party stands at a crossroads. For progressive populists, the path forward is clear: Democrats must get back in touch with the party’s working-class roots by championing a specific set of policies, including Medicare for all, free public college tuition, a guaranteed federal jobs program, and housing as a human right. They say this strategy is key to winning back disillusioned working-class voters and to regaining power in Washington and beyond. But others view this as a dangerous path. They argue that a handful of high-profile progressive wins have been overhyped by the media and, rather than make promises that may be impossible to execute in this political climate, Democrats should champion centrist, economically viable policies that will win elections and solidify the base. How can the Democratic Party, out of power and outnumbered in Washington D.C. and state capitals across the nation, bring itself out of the political wilderness?


"Democrats must flip at least 23 Republican-held seats to retake the House this November. There are currently 68 highly competitive seats — those considered a tossup between the two parties or leaning slightly toward one — according to race ratings provided by the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper."

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Jasmine C. Lee
For the Motion

“Democratic Party leaders would do well to remember the electoral success and durability of native Midwestern progressivism.”

Saturday, July 7, 2018
Dan Kaufman

“As a check on power, progressive populism can serve a useful purpose. But populism driven by authoritarian forces can leave governments in disarray and even lead to armed conflict (see 1930s Germany).”

Thursday, February 9, 2017
Ehsan Zaffar

"There are so many progressive policies that have widespread support that mainstream Democrats are not picking up on, or putting that stuff down and saying, ‘That wouldn’t really work.’"

Saturday, July 21, 2018
Alexander Burns

“To prosper, the party may have to become more divided, not less.”

Thursday, September 21, 2017
The Economist
Against the Motion

“An analysis by Third Way, a think tank in Washington that promotes what it defines as a center-left agenda, showed that pragmatic Democrats were holding sway generally.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Frank Bruni

Center-left think tank Third Way ... urged the Democratic Party to rebrand itself as 'the jobs party' in a report that warns of the risks of adopting the policies and rhetoric of the far left.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Gabriel Debenedetti

“The former president offered caution about the consequences should his party ‘move to a very liberal program, like universal health care.’”

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Associated Press

“As Bernie Sanders and the progressive wing pull the party leftward, moderates are hoping to convince voters that they have big ideas, too.”

Monday, September 18, 2017
Graham Vyse

“‘Members of both parties have recently moved to dreaming big dreams without figuring out how to pay for it,’ said Delaware Senator Tom Carper.”

Monday, May 28, 2018
Noah Rothman

“The vast majority of democratic socialists lost to candidates approved by the party.”

Thursday, September 20, 2018
The Economist
Public Opinion, Data & Polls

“The debate over whether progressivism is the way forward for Democrats didn’t start this year. It’s been raging at least since the 2016 presidential primary,2 when Sanders’s formidable run demonstrated the popularity of progressive policies like Medicare for all. But now that we’re more than halfway through the 2018 primary season, we can get a more conclusive reading of where Democrats are heading.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Meredith Conroy, Nathaniel Rakich & Mai Nguyen

“52 percent say the Democratic Party is only about anti-Trump.”

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Aaron Blake

“For the first time in Gallup's measurement over the past decade, Democrats have a more positive image of socialism than they do of capitalism.”

Monday, August 13, 2018
Frank Newport
Medicare for All & Single-Payer

“The reason that our health care system is so outrageously expensive is that it is not designed to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way, but to provide huge profits to the medical-industrial complex.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Bernie Sanders

“The vast majority of Americans, 70 percent, now support Medicare-for-all, otherwise known as single-payer health care, according to a new Reuters survey. That includes 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans. Only 20 percent of Americans say they outright oppose the idea.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Yoni Blumberg

“The single-payer plan would reduce prescription and administration costs by streamlining operations, but those savings would be far outpaced by the cost of covering some 30 million uninsured Americans and eliminating copays and deductibles for all consumers.”

Monday, July 30, 2018
Jack Crowe

“It’s important to understand that ‘Medicare for All’ is not a particularly accurate description of most single-payer proposals, notably that being promoted in the Senate by Bernie Sanders and by his supporters around the country.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Ed Kilgore

“If wholesale opposition to President Trump is one litmus test for progressive Democrats, another — as the governor’s race in California is proving — is health care.”

Friday, May 25, 2018
Patricia Cohen & Reed Abelson

“NPR's Ari Shapiro talks to Linda Blumberg of the Urban Institute about why Vermont was unable to establish a single-payer health care system.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Ari Shapiro & Linda Blumberg
Free Public College Tuition

Bernie Sanders writes, “In my view, education is essential for personal and national well-being. We live in a highly competitive, global economy, and if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. We won’t achieve that if, every year, hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college while millions more leave school deeply in debt.”

Thursday, October 22, 2015
Bernie Sanders

“Supporters of tuition-free higher education say it is an investment that benefits all Americans. But opponents say expecting taxpayers to shoulder the cost is unfair.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Sara Goldrick-Rab & Neal McCluskey

“Bernie's borrowed German model requires university offerings to be stripped down from American expectations.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Samuel Goldman

“Looking into the past, we have seen the majority of those earning a college degree or other postsecondary credential achieve higher earnings, quality of life, civic engagement, and other positive outcomes. Looking ahead, we see a new future where the vast majority of jobs will require some level of postsecondary education. From either perspective, it’s clear that 'college for all' should become our national aspiration.”

Monday, September 17, 2018
Arne Duncan & John Bridgeland

“Maryland is the latest state to offer free community college. The state now provides up to $5,000 in scholarships to in-state students from families earning less than $150,000 a year as a ‘last-dollar program.’”

Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Farran Powell

“Contrary to Cuomo’s claims, the program does little to make college ‘free.’ It offers a maximum grant of just $5,500, less than the state system’s already-low college tuition of about $6,400.”

Monday, December 4, 2017
Milton Ezrati
Guaranteed Federal Jobs Program

“Though official unemployment numbers are currently low, there are still many who feel they have been left behind.”

Friday, July 6, 2018
Laura Paddison

“Proposed legislation guaranteeing a job to anyone who wants one, at $15 an hour plus benefits, aims to eradicate underemployment.”

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Greg Ip

“Lots of good things can happen when people are employed.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Noah Smith

“One problem to work through is the traditional Democratic question of how to finance their new program.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Jonathan Chait

“Employment numbers may look solid now, but economists, physicists and industrial engineers all say that automation will, in the not-so-distant future, drive higher unemployment … How do we prepare for such disruption and the future of work?”

Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Erik Loomis
Abolish ICE

“Calls from Democrats to dismantle the agency have grown louder in recent weeks. But the movement's goals are still murky.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Elaine Godfrey

“Democrats are shifting left on immigration, and it shows at the polls.”

Saturday, August 4, 2018
Sean McElwee

“We aren’t surprised the ‘Abolish ICE’ slogan has caught on, given the party has been moving left on the immigration issue for years. And for now, ‘Abolish ICE’ is nothing but rhetoric.”

Friday, July 6, 2018
The Editors
Housing as a Human Right

“Everyone has a fundamental human right to housing, which ensures access to a safe, secure, habitable, and affordable home with freedom from forced eviction.”


Thursday, October 11, 2018

“A lack of oversight has allowed state and local governments to run wild.”

Thursday, March 29, 2018
Chris Edwards
Recent Legislation

“My new bill would require corporations to answer to employees and other stakeholders as well,” Elizabeth Warren writes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Elizabeth Warren

“She wants to make companies give board seats to employees, but unions have stakeholders too.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Richard A. Epstein

“Sen. Warren’s bill is not radical at all. Rather, it represents a much needed attempt to return our country to the commonsense economic policy that guided its growth and prosperity for most of our history.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Ralph Gomory

“Titled the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act (or the ‘Stop BEZOS’ Act), the legislation is aimed at taxing companies with employees who earn low wages and receive federal benefits like food stamps, public housing and Medicaid.

Thursday, September 6, 2018
Jennifer Calfas

“The working families and middle class of this country should not have to subsidize the wealthiest people in the United States of America,” says Bernie Sanders.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Michael Hiltzik

“Companies pay people for the work they do, and it is unrealistic to expect them to pay people based on the number of children they have, where they live or their medical bills.”

Sunday, September 16, 2018
Ryan Bourne

“Not only is this proposal unworkable and likely to harm the small number of people it targets, but it also mischaracterizes companies like Amazon and Walmart as reaping the benefits of lower wages, while the government picks up the tab.”

Saturday, September 8, 2018
Angela Rachidi
Progressive Populist Candidates

“Come November, Ocasio-Cortez is almost certain to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Will her democratic-socialist identity push the Party to the left?”

Monday, July 23, 2018
David Remnick

“Hundreds of progressive, state-level candidates running in 2018 could pull the Democratic Party leftward for years to come.”

Thursday, August 9, 2018
David A. Graham

“If Richard Cordray wins the governorship of Ohio, he could provide a road map for 2020.”


Monday, July 9, 2018
Joshua Green

“All promise not just a change in party, but an end to status-quo politics.”

Thursday, April 5, 2018
The Nation