Michael Knowles: Trump has backed his Democratic opponents into a corner – A race to the left won't save them

The first major candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination launched their campaigns just two months ago. To a person, they have all lurched steadily leftward ever since.

Over the past eight weeks, Democrat presidential candidates have endorsed a full government takeover of the health care industry, a job guarantee program, doubling the minimum wage, free preschool, free college, a quasi-universal basic income, the abolition of the Electoral College, court-packing, reparations for the great-great-great-great-grandchildren of slaves, and the Green New Deal.

The latter two proposals alone would cost taxpayers an estimated $107 trillion. To put that in perspective, the federal government received $3.33 trillion of tax revenue in 2018. Even if we eliminated every other penny of government spending—i.e., shuttered every government program and department other than the IRS and disbanded the military—it would still take 32 years’ worth of tax receipts to pay for reparations and the Green New Deal alone. This timeline poses a dilemma, as the policies themselves would cause the American economy to crash long before we could ever pay the bill.

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Democrats’ most radical proposal, the Green New Deal, would outlaw 88 percent of the American energy industry while simultaneously prohibiting virtually all forms of transportation and demolishing every building in the country before rebuilding them all within ten years. Coincidentally, that revolutionary plan has garnered more support among 2020 contenders than any other policy suggestion.

After freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., first released draft legislation for the Green New Deal in early February, virtually every major Democratic candidate for president offered his or her support.

In the Senate, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren signed on as co-sponsors. Outside the world’s greatest deliberative body, additional Democrat presidential aspirants embraced the plan, including ex-Texas congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

The 2020 Democrat presidential candidates seem confident that we’ve entered just such a suicidal cycle of waste and foolery, and so they race each other to the radical left. No proposal is too extreme, no institution safe from demolition.

John Jay, our nation’s first Chief Justice, observed in 1809 that “pure democracy, like pure rum, easily produces intoxication, and with it a thousand mad pranks and fooleries.” Perhaps that explains why, as John Adams warned five years later, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

The 2020 Democrat presidential candidates seem confident that we’ve entered just such a suicidal cycle of waste and foolery, and so they race each other to the radical left. No proposal is too extreme, no institution safe from demolition.

What if Democrats have misjudged the appetite of the country? While 77 percent of Democrats embrace socialism, according to a recent survey by Public Opinion Strategies, the majority of Americans do not. Surveys from both Marist and the left-leaning Data For Progress in 2016 and 2018, respectively, found that just 26 percent of Americans support reparations for the descendants of slaves. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 56 percent of Americans support "Medicare for all," but only until they learn the program’s costs and effects on private health insurance and medical treatment, at which point support plummets to 26 percent.

President Trump has backed his opponents into a corner. For three years he has conveyed mainstream, popular proposals—e.g., tax cuts and immigration enforcement—through his polarizing personality, disdain for which has triggered Democrats to embrace extremity in both rhetoric and policy.

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Now more than a dozen candidates compete to prove themselves the most radical leftist of the bunch, the winner of which contest will be forced to defend those highly unpopular policy positions against President Trump in the general election next November.

A more moderate Democrat might distinguish himself from his increasingly radical opponents—if only such a Democrat could be found.

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