For as far back as I can remember when Republicans would attack Democrats they would call them “liberals.”
Whatever that meant in the mind of some voters, being a liberal was a dirty word. Occasionally the word liberal will crop up in this year’s campaign but there won’t be any significant campaign in New York State where the code word liberal is used.
During the many years that I ran for public office Republicans would label our candidates as being “too liberal to govern.”
For some reason, the mindset of the Republicans was that by labeling your opponent a “liberal” the voters would recoil in fear that you were going to pick their pockets and end capitalism as we know it.
Probably the most famous New York campaign where liberalism was used effectively was the primary campaign of the late U.S. Senator Jacob Javits in 1980.
Javits was challenged by Republican Senate candidate Alphonse D’Amato. Every campaign ad featured the claim that Javits was too old and too weak to serve and above all he was a “liberal.”
D’Amato won that primary and his handily defeated Democrat Elizabeth Holtzman another “liberal.”
Today there is no Liberal Party in New York.
That party died a quiet death when it failed to get the required 50,000 votes needed during a statewide gubernatorial campaign. Its replacement on the ballot has become the Working Family Party, which is primarily made up of unions and other organizations who can’t find a home in any other party.
As we go into this next round of elections in November some Republicans at both the national and local level will label their opponents as “Democrat Socialists.”
I know what a socialist is and I know what a Democrat is but somehow I can’t fathom what a real Democrat Socialist would be.
I know Sen. Bernie Sanders declared himself to be a Democratic Socialist when he ran for president. But in order to become a primary candidate, he sought the Democratic nomination and ran in the Democratic primary campaign.
The recent Congressional primary battle between Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Queens Congressman Joseph Crowley brought to life the label of Democratic Socialist.
Cortez won that contest, not because of the label she chose for herself, but because the incumbent’s campaign failed to take her challenge seriously.
On the strength of her victory she has become a political celebrity traveling around the country to campaign for a handful of progressives.
In the past two months, candidates who have called themselves Democrat Socialists have failed to turn the political system upside down.
There have been a few isolated victories by people embracing that title, but their victories had a lot more to do with how ineffective the Republican Party has been in the areas of healthcare, climate change, salary growth and women’s rights.
Looking into the crystal ball for the 2020 election there is no doubt that Bernie Sanders will try again to win a Democratic primary.
But he will be faced with a whole army of competitors who will claim to be as progressive as he is such as Elizabeth Warren, Corey Booker, Kristen Gillibrand, Andrew Cuomo and at least six others.
But you can bet that not one of them will declare that they are a Democratic Socialist for fear of what the voters will think that label means.
Lately, Republicans are claiming that the Democratic Party has shifted too far to the left as if that is some type of disease.
I am not sure if being in favor of more health care for Americans and improving the wages of our working class is really a winning smear tactic against Democratic candidates.
If anything, the primary contests this year won by Democrats featured their pledge to improve both of those areas as well portraying themselves as moderates.
It’s too early to predict what the Republican playbook will be in November. I don’t think that the label “liberal” will be an effective campaign tool nor will there be an across the board attack on Democrats as being Democratic Socialists.
No doubt there will be new smear words used against all Democrats but especially in this year’s election philosophy will be the defining factor.