There are good reasons to think progressive populism has a unique opportunity to resonate and deliver wins for Democrats in the years ahead.
When you say “wins for Democrats,” do you mean wins for Democratic voters or wins for Democratic operatives who fund and control the party? I could definitely see a few more corporatist Democrats beholden to the oligarchy winning in the face of Trump’s unpopularity, but those are not wins for Democratic voters.
In fact, there is almost no way for 90% of Democratic voters to win. The 90% of Democratic voters who aren’t powerful operatives or members of the wealthy elite get virtually no representation in the Democratic Party. They are stuck voting for corporatist candidates who ultimately will not represent their interests in government. Don’t believe me? Look up your own district’s Democratic member of the House or your own Democratic Senator(s) at Open Secrets, and see where their money is coming from.
The one thing you did not explicitly point out is that the oligarchs atop the DNC have three options: a corporatist Democrat, a progressive Democrat, or a Republican. And, which of those options do you think is the least acceptable to them? The answer: a progressive Democrat. In the Democratic Party, the leadership is more interested in seeing a Republican win than a progressive win, so they would rather fund and back losing centrists than winning progressives.
In more open, honest terms, a typical Democratic oligarch would prefer a corporatist fascist to a democratic socialist. While a democratic socialist will not give them the unfair electoral and legislative weight they have come to expect and enjoy by way of their surplus of wealth, a corporatist fascist, as repugnant as his or her talking points may be, can at least be bribed and influenced.
This sharp divide in the interests of 90% of the Democratic Party’s voters and the Democratic Party’s wealthy elite and operatives means the party is unlikely to ever represent the interests of everyday people. Unless an insurgency from within can get a large number of actual progressives who are not funded by corporations and the wealthy elite elected into office as Democrats — which will require aggressively unseating dozens of current Democrats, on top of taking seats and governorships from Republicans — then there will be no progress, and the economic populism movement you have written about will have to center itself outside the Democratic Party. To achieve this, the insurgents will literally have to fight against their own party and take on the vast cash stores of the DNC and a corrupt apparatus that is in place to prevent insurgent candidates from beating out corporatists.
And, to that point, all of the hand-wringing among factions in the Democratic Party about the identity and purpose of the party is somewhat ironic, when you step outside the two-party bubble and realize the Green Party platform already has the very model of progressive populist economics that the Democratic Party would need to adopt if Democratic voters were to, for the first time in decades, actually be represented by their elected officials.