Candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination would be wise to listen to former President Barack Obama, who recently warned Democrats not to “lean too far left."
“This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement," Obama said. He said Americans "like seeing things improved. But the average American doesn't think that we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it's important for us not to lose sight of that."
It seems clear that President Obama was directing his comments at the two farthest-left major Democratic presidential candidates – Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont – as well as the four freshmen congresswomen collectively known as “the Squad.”
Obama is right. We had an American Revolution in 1776 that changed history for the better and gave birth to our great nation. But many Americans are alarmed by talk of a second revolution that will move America so far left that millions of people will feel left out.
Americans want sound solutions – not simply solutions that sound good – that will make major improvements to our country. But they want the equivalent of a home remodeling for our nation’s government – not a demolition that will blow up what works as well as what needs replacing.
You can be sure that President Trump will work to demonize whoever the Democrats nominate to run against him next year. Trump will call his opponent a wild-eyed socialist who will raise taxes sky-high on everyone, impose crazy new regulations, destroy our economy and take away our freedoms. Democrats need to nominate someone who can show such Trump claims are nonsense, and can appeal to centrist voters as well as those on the far left.
The polls back up Obama’s advice for Democrats to avoid extremism.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is surging in the polls in the nomination race because he is seen as progressive but not radical by many voters. The 37-year-old military veteran is seen as the future of the Democratic Party by many – and if he doesn’t get the nomination next year has plenty of time to compete in the years ahead.
Buttigieg has taken sizeable leads over the other top-tier candidates – former Vice President Joe Biden, Warren and Sanders – in some polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first two nominating contests will be held in February. A lot can change between now the first votes, but Mayor Pete is clearly a strong contender.
Like Biden and many of the second-tier candidates, Buttigieg is taking the path recommended by Obama – seeking evolution rather than revolution.
While the revolutionary faction of the Democratic Party wants "Medicare-for-all," Buttigieg favors Medicare “for all who want it.” Under this plan, people who want to keep their employer-provided health insurance can do so. But an affordable, comprehensive public alternative for health insurance would be available for all who want it.
When it comes to guns, Mayor Pete supports a voluntary gun buyback program that voters have voiced strong support for. He rejects mandatory confiscation of assault weapons, like the plan proposed by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas. That idea was so unpopular it may have contributed to O’Rourke’s decision to end his presidential candidacy not long after he proposed it.
On the issue of immigration, Buttigieg again sides with the majority of voters. He wants citizenship for Dreamers – immigrants brought to the U.S. without legal authorization as children. About 77 percent of voters favor this sensible plan
At the same time, Buttigieg wants to enforce our immigration laws, but with less severe penalties and without separating immigrant children from their parents. And the mayor rejects calls from some Democrats to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. He understands our immigration problems are being caused by the wrong policies, not by the people who enforce those policies.
Like Biden and some candidates in the back of the pack of Democratic contenders, Buttigieg wants to fix what’s broken in our country and unite us around our common goals and aspirations – the exact opposite of what President Trump has tried to do by fanning the flames of division and spewing hateful rhetoric in his speeches and tweets.
Not too long ago, “experts” thought a black presidential candidate couldn’t be elected until the far future. Barack Obama waged a brilliant presidential campaign and proved them wrong, and then won reelection against all odds. So he has the best credentials of anyone to know what Democrats need to do to send Trump into a well-deserved political retirement.
There are no silver medals for the second-place finishers in presidential elections. The losing candidate can write a book about what might have been, but can’t accomplish anything for the American people. All his or her brilliant plans will amount to nothing.
Democrats need to focus on the need to defeat President Trump as their top priority. To do this they have to nominate a pragmatic candidate who can appeal to moderate Democrats, independents, and even some Republicans turned off by Trump’s conduct in office.
Democratic candidates need to remember that Obama got to the White House by calling for change – not revolution.