Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Democrats Are Moving Left. Will America Follow?

This is the prompt the Washington Post magazine put to thirty-two (count 'em, 32!) assorted "journalists, wonks, activists and politicians", including yours truly. (I guess I must be a "wonk"). The pieces are all online now and will be in the print edition of the magazine on Sunday.
They are all, by design, quite short. I reproduce here my contribution in full. I'll comment on some of the others of interest in the next few days.
"Is the country moving to the left? Absolutely. Are the Democrats moving to the left? Absolutely. Could the Democrats move too far to the left? Absolutely.
Consider the evidence. According to political scientist James Stimson’s public policy mood index — which measures sentiment across a wide range of policies — Americans’ support for government action is now at its highest level since the 1960s. Thus the idea that the country is moving to the left is not wishful thinking on the part of liberal pundits and politicians.
Meanwhile, it can scarcely be disputed that the Democrats are moving to the left. Simply look at the range of measures under discussion in the primary debates. Even the leading “moderate” candidate, Joe Biden, is pushing policies substantially to the left of what Hillary Clinton ran on in 2016, including a public health insurance plan open to all Americans.
But it also cannot be disputed that Democrats could run too far to the left for even a country that is moving leftward. Take some of the policies that have been under discussion in the Democratic debates and pushed by Democratic activists:
1. Reparations for the descendants of slaves. This is massively unpopular. It would be more consistent with a country moving leftward to advocate needed social programs that happen to disproportionately benefit black Americans because of their income, education or location.
2. Decriminalizing the border or abolishing ICE. Neither of these measures is remotely consistent with the views of the public. It would make more sense for Democrats to advocate for reforming the enforcement agency plus a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants plus a humane immigration policy that still includes border security.
3. Medicare-for-all that eliminates private insurance. The polling could not be clearer: What the public really wants is Medicare-for-anyone or Medicare-for-all-who-want-it. This is embodied in the DeLauro-Schakowsky Medicare for America bill, as well as in the positions of some of the more moderate Democratic candidates.
4. A Green New Deal that commits to 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years. The public is not on board with anything quite so ambitious, but there is significant support for a Green New Deal that would focus on jobs, infrastructure and research.
In my view, these are the “four don’ts” of the 2020 campaign. Avoiding these are the key to Democrats moving smoothly to the left along with the country as a whole."
About this website
We asked dozens of journalists, wonks, activists and politicians to write short pieces about the state of the Democratic Party — and what it means for 2020.

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