One of the many remarkable things about the contest for the 2020 Democratic party presidential nomination is that the name “Barack Obama” almost never passes the lips of the candidates. The natural thing would be for those who would follow in his footsteps to be openly vying with each other to show who is more Obama-like, who is better qualified to bring back the good old days of a popular two-term Democratic president.
Yet, in the debates and on the road, Obama’s name doesn’t come up much. Compare that with the behavior of Republican presidential primary candidates in 2016, who were happy to identify themselves with Ronald Reagan and mentioned his name 21 times in one debate.
These Democrats are noticeably uncomfortable with their former leader. For example, when Kamala Harris was asked by the Atlantic whether she would “consider herself an heir to the Obama legacy,” she responded, “I have my own legacy.”
Harris’ legacy, like that of her fellow presidential aspirants, is so far to the left of Obama (at least of his public policies) that they shun any comparison to him. Who would have thought that the day would come when Barack Obama, who broke boundaries and set new levels of liberalism — especially on moral issues — would be considered a moderate, let alone too moderate?
The more obvious signs were already apparent in 2016, when Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, was the main runner-up to Hillary Clinton for the nomination. The appellation “socialist” once spelled political death for anyone tarred with it. Sanders broke the taboo.
But four years is a long time in American politics; a lot of water has flowed under crumbling bridges, and now the Vermont senator’s socialist program is largely embraced. The $15 dollar minimum wage, a signature Sanders proposal, has been adopted by the Democratic mainstream. In July, the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives passed the Raise the Wage Act, which would make it law by 2025.
Ditto health care for everyone. “A few years ago when we said that health care is a right, not a privilege, and that we should create a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system, I was told I’m crazy, it’s extreme, I’m a fringe guy,” Sanders said in a 2018 interview with Stephen Colbert. “Seventy percent of the American people, in the last polls I’ve seen, now support Medicare for all.”
The Democratic candidates have signed up to the sweeping impositions of the Green New Deal that would entail nothing less than a remake of the U.S. economy. This set of policies calls for ending the use of fossil fuels by 2030, closing down all nuclear power plants in the next ten years, ending air travel, mandating that all new jobs be unionized, upgrading “every building in the U.S. for state-of-the-art energy efficiency” and “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.”
Sanders has committed to underwriting it for $10.9 trillion, Warren for $3.0 trillion, Biden for $1.7 trillion, O’Rourke for $1.5 trillion. And everybody is in for at least $1 trillion for renovating the national infrastructure.
These ideas are impractical, utopian, demagogic, promising a perfect world (in their eyes) without taking costs into consideration. Alas, the Democrats go even further than that. They have veered from left to far left — off-the-board left — with notions that are startlingly detached from reality, economic or otherwise.
Take, for example, Beto O’Rourke. The former Texas congressman recently claimed in a tweet that living near your job is “a right for everyone.” The source of this “right” will not be found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or its amendments. Even the more radical Rights of Man of the French Revolution and the Communist Manifesto do not address this novel insight into what human beings deserve. Rather, it emanates exclusively from the mind of Beto.
Indeed, he is so convinced of it that, if elected, he would force it on us, like it or not. “Rich people are going to have to allow — or be forced to allow — lower-income people to live near them,” he said. Stalin and Mao are dead, but their spirit lives on in El Paso.
Beto is polling at a little over 2 percent these days, his chances of winning the nomination virtually nil. And so far, none of the other candidates have rushed to support his close-to-work idea.
However, Elizabeth Warren is a much more serious contender for the presidency, and some of her ideas are no less reality-challenged than O’Rourke’s. A few days ago, Warren unveiled her latest shocker — a promise that if elected president, she will issue an immediate ukase forbidding the method of natural-gas production known as “fracking.”
Other Democratic contenders, including Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris of California, have also made anti-fracking noises. Putting aside for the moment the deeply problematic economic and social consequences of such a ban (which would likely wreck domestic energy production and increase dependence on more “dirty” fuels), the measure would be, according to some experts, likely unconstitutional.
Andrew Yang, a hitherto obscure lawyer and businessman, has lately emerged as a presidential candidate. At last look he was polling seventh in the field with 2.5 percent nationally, just behind New Jersey Senator Cory Booker with 2.7. Not bad for a fellow coming out of nowhere.
His 76 proposals for America include: Making Taxes Fun, with a new federal holiday and White House visit raffle; Modern Time Banking, which would award citizens cashable brownie points for altruistic activities like coaching little league, or fixing a neighbor’s appliance; and a plan to Closely Monitor Mental Health of White House Staff by creating “a White House Psychologist group.” Clearly, Yang has thought hard about what to do on Day One of his administration.
Demagoguery is, it seems, a powerful drug which induces delusions of infinite budgets, infinite rights and infinite executive powers. It has claimed the minds of some of the leading Democratic figures in the country.
While the extreme positions of many of these candidates is alarming news for moderate Democrats, it is welcome news for President Trump’s supporters, who see this as a welcome boon for their candidate’s chances.