By Editorial Board – wsj.com – June 28, 2019
President Trump is a lucky man. Typically a re-election campaign is a referendum on the incumbent, and Mr. Trump is losing that race. But the Democrats are moving left so rapidly that they may let him turn 2020 into a choice between his policy record and the most extreme liberal agenda since 1972 (which may be unfair to George McGovern).
That’s the most significant political message from two nights of debate in Miami this week among 20 Democratic presidential candidates. The party hasn’t merely moved to the left of Bill Clinton’s New Democrats of the 1990s. Democrats have moved to the left of where they were in 2010 when they last ran the government. Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but he has won the ideological debate.
Start with the Democrats’ description of America in 2019 as a bleak house for everyone but the very rich. The economy is “doing great for people who want to invest in private prisons, just not for the African-Americans and Latinx whose families are torn apart, whose lives are destroyed, and whose communities are ruined,” said Elizabeth Warren, in a dirge typical of the two debates. “It’s doing great for giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere, just not for the rest of us who are watching climate change bear down upon us.”
This is Mr. Sanders’ vision of America relentlessly divided by class, race and gender. Women live in “The Handmaid’s Tale” and minorities in the pre-Civil Rights Act South. Do they think Americans don’t remember that an African-American was President and so were his two attorneys general?
Perhaps their image of America as an Argentina of inequality might sell in a recession year like 2008. But Americans give Mr. Trump high marks on the economy, and consumer confidence is high despite a recent dip. Incomes are finally rising faster for the lower-skilled than for managers. The jobless rate is the lowest in two generations, and notably low for blacks and Hispanics.
Or take health care, as nearly all of the candidates now consider ObamaCare to be inadequate. Ms. Warren has endorsed Bernie’s Medicare for All bill, which would abolish private insurance for 177 million Americans. So has Kamala Harris, though she now seems to be hedging and says she’d allow private insurance for “supplemental” coverage. But she isn’t clear if that’s for optional procedures like cosmetic surgery or regular health coverage.
Most of the other candidates favor expanding the Affordable Care Act with a “public option,” or government-run plan, that would compete with private insurance. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said this would “move us to single-payer more quickly.” She may be right, which is one reason the public option couldn’t pass even the Democratic House in 2010. Yet now this is the “moderate” party position.
The same leftward lurch is apparent on issue after issue.
- Climate change is now an urgent crisis that demands eliminating not merely the coal industry but all fossil fuels.
- Enforcing immigration laws that were once passed by bipartisan majorities in Congress is now inhumane. Joe Biden is attacked because the Obama Administration deported millions of undocumented migrants.
- Free health care for Americans isn’t enough; now it must also be an entitlement for any foreign migrant who enters the U.S.
- College loans must be forgiven in part or whole, and tuition now must be free.
- Taxes must be raised to rates unheard of since the 1960s because, as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio put it, money is “just in the wrong hands.”
- The Electoral College must be killed to save American democracy, and the Supreme Court must be packed with more Justices because the left now sometimes loses decisions.
Not all of the candidates on stage in Miami endorse all of these positions, but most do favor most of them. The two candidates who dared to warn that some of this might go too far—former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and former Maryland Congressman John Delaney—are being dismissed as irrelevant in the post-debate coverage. They are said to have no chance at the nomination.
It isn’t clear why the Democrats have moved so far left so fast. Perhaps it is changing demographics led by the millennial socialists scarred by the Great Recession. Perhaps Mr. Trump’s conservative populism has inspired its counterpart on the left.
Whatever the cause, this Bernie Sanders triumph is the single most important development in the 2020 campaign. Mr. Trump should be grateful. If this is the opposition agenda next year, he might win a second term.
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