Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Radical Turn

Senator Bernie Sanders (D., Vt.) introduces his “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill, September 13, 2017. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Clintonite triangulation aimed at appealing to the broad middle is dead.

One indicator of progressive hatred of Donald Trump that deserves more contemplation is this: The Democratic party is moving left with breathtaking velocity. Not only is it far to the left of Bill Clinton, it’s well to the left of even Barack Obama. Two and a half years before the next presidential election, with a wide-open race to be the party’s standard-bearer against President Trump, there’s no telling how far left the contenders for the nomination will have to move to enthuse the most ardent party members. Trump’s reelection campaign may well center on positioning him as reasonable and moderate. The Democrats appear intent on helping him do that.

Consider a new Gallup poll this week that revealed that party members no longer even concede that the existence of rich people is a good thing. The poll question was, “Do you think the United States benefits from having a class of rich people, or not?” Only 43 percent of Democrats said yes, as opposed to 81 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents. As recently as 2012, shortly after the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement drew rapturous media coverage, 52 percent of Democrats agreed it’s a good thing to have rich people in this country.

Who do Democrats expect to pay for government if not rich people? In 2015, the top 1 percent of earners paid a greater share of individual income tax than the bottom 90 percent combined. The top 5 percent paid 60 percent of total individual income taxes. If these people were chased out of the country via confiscatory tax policies, the United States would collapse. Not only is the existence of rich people a good thing for the country overall, but if you’re poor, they are paying for all of your government stuff.

This level of rank class resentment used to be utterly alien to the U.S., even among progressives. So let’s not underplay what’s going on here. The Democratic party is swiftly turning radical. Its members’ beliefs make Obama look like a moderate. Trump will be able to claim plausibly that his policies are far closer to Bill Clinton’s than the Democrats’ next presidential nominee’s are.

It is today’s party dogma, agreed upon by the presumptive Democratic presidential candidates, that the federal minimum wage should be raised by more than 100 percent to $15 per hour. Obama, on the other hand, pushed for a minimum-wage hike of 30 percent and failed to get it, even with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress for two years. Some 52 percent of Democrats want single-payer health care, according to a Pew survey last July, and the Sandersista policy of forcing the cost of state college tuition on taxpayers instead of students is catching on.

In 2013, when Bernie Sanders introduced a previous version of his “Medicare for All” plan, it had zero co-sponsors. Last year, Sanders attracted 16 fellow Democrats as co-sponsors for his single-payer health-care bill, including potential presidential contenders Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren. Booker, a longtime friend of Wall Street who called Obama’s attacks on Bain Capital “nauseating,” these days is calling out Wall Street for its alleged “greed.” Booker, Warren, Sanders, Harris, and Gillibrand are backing a bonkers federal job guarantee that even Obama cheerleader Jonathan Chait of New York magazine labels “a huge mistake,” half-baked,” and “wildly premature.” Kevin Drum of Mother Jones notes, “Even our lefty comrades in social democratic Europe don’t guarantee jobs for everyone. It would cost a fortune; it would massively disrupt the private labor market; it would almost certainly tank productivity,” etc.

Let’s just pause here to reflect that the leaders of the Democratic party are now to the left of Mother frickin’ Jones.

In 2013, when Bernie Sanders introduced a previous version of his ‘Medicare for All’ plan, it had zero co-sponsors.

On immigration, an issue that in 2016 motivated Democratic voters in the bluest areas of the country but hurt them in swing states and in any case did not cost Trump any Latino support compared to Mitt Romney, the Democrats have taken an extreme position, backing open borders and protecting illegal immigrants. It was only twelve years ago that Obama said, “When I see Mexican flags waved at pro-immigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.” Today, a Democrat expressing such sentiments would have zero hope of being his party’s presidential nominee. He would be tarred as a racist and be declared unfit for decent political company.

A Democrat who acknowledged such sentiments at times while also backing a humane and sympathetic immigration policy might attract considerable support. But that kind of Clintonite triangulation aimed at appeasing the broad middle is dead. Trying to win people over in calm, soothing tones is dead. Today’s Democrats are screeching to the choir.

NOW WATCH: ‘What Liberals Used to Say About Immigration’

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