Democrats: Moving too far left to win?
“Dear Democrats,” said Bret Stephens in The New York Times. “If you go on like this, you’re going to lose the elections, and you’ll deserve it.” In their first round of debates, the 20 Democratic candidates seemed to be competing to see who could alienate the greatest number of mainstream voters. Lowlights include Kamala Harris suggesting it was time to bring back the widely hated racial “busing” programs of the 1970s, several candidates promising to abolish private health insurance, and Beto O’Rourke launching into heavily accented Spanish. But the “best moment for the Trump campaign” by far was probably when every candidate at the second debate raised a hand in support of providing health coverage for illegal immigrants. Just as damaging for the Democrats, said Megan McArdle in The Washington Post, was the moment in the second debate when eight of the 10 candidates supported the decriminalization of illegal border crossings. Yes, both parties pander to their bases during the primaries, then “tack back to the center for the general election.” But this year’s Democrats have already “wandered so far out into left field that they’ll need a high-speed, solar-powered monorail to make it back in time for 2020.”
The candidates may be out of step—but only with 60-year-old, white male pundits and anguished never-Trump conservatives, said Rebecca Traister in NYMag.com. Polls show that much of the public backs such supposedly far-left proposals as the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a wealth tax; a new study by the University of North Carolina has found that support for left-wing policies is at its highest point in 60 years. After years of growing income inequality and unaddressed climate change, Democrats are clamoring for a “different, faster, smarter, lefter turn toward the future.” That’s why most candidates are tacking to the left, said John Harris in Politico.com. Ever since Bill Clinton won the presidency as a centrist New Democrat, the party’s top candidates have portrayed themselves as more moderate than they really were. But after the trauma of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump in 2016, the Democratic base is deeply wary of nominating another cautious, “electable” centrist. For the candidates trying to win the nomination this time around, that means “it is no longer safe to play it safe.”
That strategy “could blow up in the party’s face,” said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. The “progressive intelligentsia” has managed to convince itself that Democrats can stake out “reckless positions” like abolishing private health insurance without paying an electoral price. That’s insane. “Trump is an unpopular incumbent” and can win only if he can convince voters “the Democrats pose a bigger danger.” Why are they so determined to help him?
Sorry, said Jared Bernstein in The Washington Post, “but this is what democracy looks like.” Many Americans are sick of the status quo and looking for a president willing to consider “policy solutions that establishment figures will consider immoderate.” Democrats should “shut out the scolds and allow the debate to take us wherever it goes.” And let’s be honest, said Joan Walsh in TheNation.com. The main reason the party’s moderates are panicking now is that Joe Biden, “the great moderate hope,” stumbled in the debates and is losing momentum. Rather than attack Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders for being too progressive, maybe the moderates should think about “why their policies and their candidates are failing to catch fire.” ■