The Democrats' Civil War Has Begun


Let the great Democratic civil war begin. The impending demise of Joe Biden and the patched-together coalition he represents is threatening to accelerate the very intra-party conflicts his presidency was meant to assuage.

In 2020, Biden was able to cobble together the remains of the old Rooseveltian New Deal coalition, along with huge support from both the oligarchic elite and the progressive left. This was possible in large part because the repellant Donald Trump alienated not only the left, including the rising Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), but also dominant elites and numerically strong moderate liberals.

Today, as the Republicans unite around Trump, the Democratic alliance has become creaky. As has been happening for decades, much of the traditional New Deal coalition has further abandoned the party. Biden’s inflationary policies and embrace of progressive cultural and environmental priorities have not gone down well with the traditional base of mostly working-class voters. This has been particularly alienating given that the majority of Democrats consider themselves moderate or even conservative.

Biden’s performance, even before last week’s disastrous presidential debate, has unsettled more than just his core voter base. It has also rattled the oligarchic elite that funded his 2020 campaign, as well as the party apparatus and its media appendages. They may still conveniently genuflect to cultural progressivism and climate-change hysteria, but are less likely to want a mass redistribution of wealth and other curbs on their power. There have been tentative signs, at least on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, that some are now contemplating support for Trump instead. These defectors may be few in number, but they reek of money.

Increasingly, the one reliable – and vocal – bloc of Democrats resides on the far left. This faction backed Biden in 2020 against Trump, despite his relatively moderate political record. The idea was to influence his administration afterwards. It would be an ‘evolution’, as Squad congresswoman Pramila Jayapal described it. Biden largely accommodated to this agenda, at least rhetorically, championing issues from Net Zero targets to the promotion of transgender ideology.

This new left is organised in groups like Bernie Sanders’s Our Revolution, the Working Families Party in New York and within increasingly radicalised unions representing college faculty and school teachers. The DSA constitutes arguably the most important of these leftist movements. Described by Jacobin as ‘the most significant hub for left-wing activism in the country’, the DSA seeks power primarily by infiltrating the Democratic Party. It also tends to embrace ‘illiberal’ politics, which one New York Times columnist has rightly labelled ‘the most troubling characteristic of contemporary progressivism’.

This rejection of liberal values would have horrified the group’s 1982 founder, and a teacher of mine, Michael Harrington. DSA activists in New York actually hailed Hamas’s 7 October attacks against Israel as a victory against colonialism and apartheid, irrespective of the rapes, murders and hostage-taking. Rather than mirror the pragmatic, mixed-market politics traditionally found on the American left, these groups more reflect the strident positions adopted by the likes of European green parties, France’s radical socialist La France Insoumise and the now mostly silenced Corbynites of the British Labour Party.

Read the rest of this piece at Spiked.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and and directs the Center for Demographics and Policy there. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: Werner Slocum/NREL via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.