The Left vs. the Crazy Left
If you’re looking for a moderate president, you won’t find one in the Democratic field.
Kimberley A. Strassel Aug. 1, 2019
The nation has struggled to categorize the Democratic presidential candidates. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is some days a “populist,” others a “liberal.” Sen. Bernie Sanders is at pains to define “democratic socialism” as apart from plain, old “socialism.” The media describes Sen. Amy Klobuchar as a “centrist” or “moderate,” even as she insists on “proven progressive.”
This summer’s debates have been primarily useful for highlighting how radically the Democratic Party has shifted. Barack Obama can fairly be described as the most liberal president in American history—from his command-and-control regulatory regime to the Affordable Care Act, from his tax hikes to his activist judges. Yet the entire Democratic primary field is now rebuking his agenda as small and weak, if not proto-Trumpian.
Mr. Obama avoided campaigning in 2008 on a public option, and the White House willingly jettisoned that demand in the final ObamaCare negotiations. He knew that at best it would muster 43 Senate votes, while senators like Joe Lieberman had vowed to filibuster a government “takeover” of health insurance that would balloon the national debt. House Blue Dogs similarly rejected it. Yet all 20 of the candidates on this week’s debate stage backed Medicare for any American, if not all of them.
Mr. Obama touted natural gas as a bridge fuel to a future lower-carbon environment. He kept his economy afloat by winking at the state-led fracking revolution, and since retirement he’s even (misleadingly) bragged that he was responsible for record new U.S. oil production. Yet what was the radical-left position of a few years ago—“keep it in the ground”—is now mainstream. On Wednesday even Joe Biden said no when a moderator asked if there would be “any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking,” in his administration. Hawaiians will never visit the mainland again.
Mr. Biden’s rivals—including Sen. Cory Booker, Julián Castro (an Obama cabinet secretary) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio—scored him for not using his clout as vice president to stop Mr. Obama’s “deportations.” Activist audience members egged this attack on, chanting “three million deportations!” Mr. Biden made a stab at defending the Obama immigration policy, but he promised the Obama deportation rates would “absolutely not” resume were he president. The entire field is on record for easing asylum rules, and some want to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings.
On the topic of law and order, not a single candidate spoke in defense of hundreds of thousands of police officers who daily risk their lives for public safety. They instead nodded along with descriptions of police systems as “criminal,” “corrupt” and “broken.” Mr. Obama spoke at a 2016 memorial for five murdered Dallas cops. Would any Democratic candidate dare show up at such an event today?
The debates have highlighted important policy distinctions. But in the context of this overall leftward shift, they are rightly measured on a sliding scale from “lefty” to “absolutely nuts.” And it’s only the presence of the real radicals that allows commentators to get away with suggesting any of these policies are remotely “centrist” or “moderate.”
The crazies want to tax everyone and everything—financial transactions, carbon, bank liabilities, sales, wealth, income, families. Mr. Sanders has outright said he will raise taxes on the middle class, while Ms. Warren has all but admitted as much. The ordinary lefties merely want to raise taxes on capital, estates, businesses, payrolls and higher incomes.
The crazies would take over or kill entire sectors of the economy. Some Medicare for All proponents would immediately outlaw private insurance; others would do it over time. Fossil-fuel jobs would be abolished, while disfavored corporate executives would face “jail.” The lefties would merely regulate the hell out of the economy, dictating what types of health plans, financial products, energy, and drugs we can have, and at what price.
The crazies would pack the Supreme Court (Ms. Warren), prosecute Mr. Trump (Kamala Harris) and spend billions on slavery reparations (Marianne Williamson). The lefties would merely require two years of mandatory national service (John Delaney), ban union and nonprofit political speech (Michael Bennet) and impose sweeping new gun control (John Hickenlooper).
The Democratic Party seems to be banking that voters dislike Mr. Trump so much that they’ll accept any alternative. That’s an enormously risky bet. All that’s missing in this race is any evidence that a country that elected Mr. Trump is four years later willing to leapfrog beyond Obama policies into liberal nirvana. The polls continue to show (as they long have) that the U.S. is a center-right country. Ms. Warren wondered on Tuesday why anyone would bother running for president if they weren’t running as a full-blown radical. Because elections are supposed to be about winning.
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