Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has a “deep sense of satisfaction” that Democrats running for president have adopted some of the radical ideas he campaigned on in 2016. Moderate Democrats can be forgiven for not sharing his enthusiasm, as they watch their candidates embrace policies that only a socialist – and not most Americans – could love.
In a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, when registered voters were asked to choose between President Trump and a Democrat who they considered a socialist, Trump won 49 to 43. Note that two-thirds of those answering that question identified themselves as a Democrat or independent; only 23 percent were Republicans.
So, maybe not ready for Bernie after all.
In an interview on MSNBC Sanders told Rachel Maddow that his 2016 push for a $15 minimum wage and embrace of free college were no longer considered extreme, but had become mainstream among his fellow candidates and were being gradually translated into legislation and adopted in some parts of the U.S.
He also noted that when he ran to be the Democratic candidate in the last election cycle, he called out climate change as the country’s greatest “national security crisis," provoking laughter at the time. They’re “not laughing today,” he said, with obvious satisfaction.
He also said, “it’s not good enough to talk about 'Medicare-for-all' and talk about being on climate change….if you want real change, we need a political revolution.”
Does the nation want what Sanders describes as “real change?" Will voters in 2020 elect a candidate promising a “political revolution?”
Or has Sanders led the Democratic Party into a blind alley with no way out?
There is no question that Sanders has moved the country’s conversation. Campaigning against Hillary Clinton, he was the first to propose that health care was a right and should be free to every American, a proposition now shared by many of his rivals.
He pushed Hillary to condemn the Keystone XL Pipeline because it might hurt the climate and to oppose the multi-nation TPP trade agreement.
He forced her to go bigger on the minimum wages and on higher taxes and to come down hard on her buddies on Wall Street. When he promised free college, she countered with a plan for “debt-free” college.
Does the nation want what Sanders describes as “real change?" Will voters in 2020 elect a candidate promising a “political revolution?” Or has Sanders led the Democratic Party into a blind alley with no way out?
But voters knew that Clinton’s heart wasn’t in turning the country or the economy upside-down. Sanders’ passion, as he railed at corporate greed and pushed his socialist agenda, was real and energized “Bernie’s army.” When Hillary reluctantly climbed aboard the progressive express, armed with millions from Wall Street, she looked like a phony.
Today, Democrats read the nation as ready for the Sanders agenda. He was so successful in the early months of the campaign that he inspired Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and others to follow along like ducklings, all eager to outdo one another with their progressive give-aways. The policy jousting mirrors a high-stakes poker game: I’ll raise taxes to 50 percent! No, I’ll top that and raise them to 70 percent!
But to the amazement (and disappointment) of liberal talking heads, old-fashioned Joe Biden has captured the lead in the nominating race. Moreover, in spite of numerous gaffes and goofs, and even as the woke crowd has landed on him for his past associations with segregationists and historical opposition to busing, the former vice president is stuck in the top spot.
That doesn’t mean he’ll win the nomination; Democrats who vote in primaries, like their GOP counterparts, tend toward extremism. In fact, a recent poll of New Hampshire voters shows him slipping behind Warren and Sanders. It does show however that more Democrats think a moderate like Biden has the best shot of beating Donald Trump.
His lead has shrunk, to be sure, but as Sanders, Warren and others duke it out for the progressive vote, Biden has, at the moment, a comfortable 12 point cushion, according to the RealClearPolitics average.
It seems not all Democrats are ready to abandon the policies and traditions that have made the United States the richest country on the planet, the true north for ambitious people the world over.
Voters of a certain age have witnessed the grim realities of socialism; they know the demoralization and corruption that accompanies the spread of federal largesse and elimination of individual responsibility. Progressive youngsters like AOC should travel to Venezuela and witness socialist devastation up close.
Robert Johnson, founder of cable network BET and lifelong Democrat, told a CNBC interviewer recently that, “The party, in my opinion, for me personally, has moved too far to the left.” He also said, “I think at the end of the day, if a Democrat is going to beat Trump, then that person, he or she, will have to move to the center and you can’t wait too long to do that.”
Former Starbucks CEO and Democrat Howard Schultz is so disgusted by the leftward lurch of his party that he threatened to enter the race earlier this year, willing to spend tens of millions of his own dollars to run as an independent. He views the current enthusiasm to provide free everything and soak the rich as a losing strategy. Schultz was met with vitriol from the left, roundly condemned for possibly acting as “spoiler” and enabling the reelection of President Trump.
But maybe that anger and hostility stemmed from something else: the knowledge that Schultz was right. Late last year, in response to a question, 54 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents told Gallup they would like to see their party become more moderate; only 41 percent thought it should tack more liberal.
Rank and file Democrats get it; their party has moved too far left to win a national election, and they have Bernie Sanders to thank.