Moderate Democrats Lost To Trump In 2016. Why Should We Listen To Them In 2020?

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Former Vice President Joe Biden is widely viewed as the politician who will save “moderate” Democrats from the Bernie Sanders campaign. (Photo: Brookings Institution)

The so-called moderates in the Democratic Party establishment aligned behind Hillary Clinton months before any citizens cast a vote in the 2016 election — and lost to President Donald Trump. But they expect citizens to fear Senator Bernie Sanders and the “political revolution” will help re-elect Trump.

While Sanders kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign in Iowa, the New York Times published a report articulating the anxieties of “moderate Democrats,” who are grappling with their increased irrelevancy.

“Two months into the presidential campaign, the leading Democratic contenders have largely broken with consensus-driven politics and embraced leftist ideas on health care, taxes, the environment, and Middle East policy that would fundamentally alter the economy, elements of foreign policy, and ultimately remake American life.”

This part of the Democratic Party frets that the “broad middle” may be alienated as Trump makes “no attempt to appeal to such voters.”

The article additionally contended that Sanders and his campaign should not be allowed to lead a “sprint toward populism that amounts to a rejection of the incremental and often-defensive brand of politics that has characterized the party’s approach to highly charged issues for 40 years.” Instead, the focus should be on what allowed the Democratic Party to pick up 21 seats in the House of Representatives, which Trump carried in 2016.

Compared to the Sanders wing, the “moderate” or centrist wing of the Democratic Party is in disarray. They hope former Vice President Joe Biden can save them.

Biden’s campaign would tamp down expectations for transformative change. It would dismally offer voters a chance to triage a status quo that grows more and more destructive for working families after each election cycle.

Younger generations are acutely aware that the United States is currently in the state that it is in under Trump because the Democrats have clung to incrementalism and defensive politics for at least four decades. They have taken up the mantle of second-most enthusiastic capitalist party, abandoning the politics of the New Deal that gave them some appeal to working people in the early 1900s.

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Let’s consider the issues of health care, taxes, the environment, and Middle East policy and test this notion that “leading Democratic contenders” are breaking with consensus.

A CNN poll released in February found 54 percent believe the government should provide a national health insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes.

In 2018, a CBS poll found 65 percent supported the government offering Medicare plans to everyone that would compete with private health insurance plans. Fifty-six percent believe it is the government’s responsibility to make sure citizens have coverage for health care.

Polls overwhelmingly show that Americans believe the tax bill Trump passed favored corporations and wealthy people disproportionately. Americans think the government should work to reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor. A Pew Research Center/USA Today from 2014 found 54 percent supported raising taxes on corporations and wealthy people to reduce poverty.

A CNN-Des Moines Register poll found 80 percent of Iowans want candidates to talk about climate change “a lot.” Sixty-three percent of citizens, according to a Pew Research Center poll in 2019, said stricter environmental regulations are worth the cost to jobs and the economy. Fifty-two percent of citizens, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in 2018, think failing to address climate change will lead to “greater financial costs” as well as “higher energy prices.”

Most importantly, 18 percent said the United States was doing enough to combat climate change, according to a poll from Quinnipiac University in 2018.

As for Middle East policy, support for U.S. military action in Syria was historically low in 2017. Americans do not support what progressives have deemed “forever wars.” A poll from ABC News/Washington Post in 2014 found 56 percent believed the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting.

Nearly 60 percent, according to Quinnipiac University polling from 2007 to 2015, believe the U.S. was wrong to go to war in Iraq in 2003.

It is evident any political party claiming to uphold a consensus — what a majority of Americans support — would fight for expanding Medicare, higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, strong action against climate change (perhaps even with a Green New Deal), and an end to never-ending wars in the Middle East.

Truth is, when “moderates” oppose a more progressive agenda, they are not doing so because it will alienate Americans. They are doing so because it will alienate the “donor class,” as Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz told the Times.

It will upset the pundit class — those who see themselves as “the arbiters of conventional political wisdom.” These are the people who most resent the popularity of Bernie Sanders and his grassroots political campaign.

“What we’ve learned from [the] last two presidential elections is that nobody knows anything,” Schatz added. “The people who write op-eds and stroke their chins and tell us how to win are the people who have been getting it wrong for almost two decades now.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it another way during an event at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.

“It feels like moderate is not a stance. It’s just an attitude toward life of meh,” Ocasio-Cortez said, as she accentuated her point with a shrug. “We view cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivete, when we think about the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of vision. And the ‘meh’ is like worship now, for what? Like for what?”

In addition to a righteous statement about President Barack Obama, Omar addressed the tepidness of Democrats in her interview for POLITICO.

“I think you endanger your majority by not doing what got you into the majority,” Omar declared. “And this is something that the Republicans often are in tune with that the Democrats are not.”

“We seem to be afraid of our own shadow. We’ve become too afraid, I think, to actually listen to the people, and to recognize who our base is. I’m fascinated by Republicans. They seem to have, for good or bad, a full understanding of their base and complete loyalty to them. We have a bigger base, but we seem to not understand them or have loyalty to them.”

“When you are constantly trying to figure out how to appease everyone, you end up not appeasing anyone,” Omar concluded.

So, back to the fact that the Democratic base ultimately was dragged along by “moderates” to support Clinton as the candidate to defeat Trump in 2016 and Trump was not defeated.

The Clinton campaign engaged in hubris, elevating the Trump campaign. They viewed him as a kind of “Pied Piper candidate” that would be easier for Clinton to beat.

Clinton did not travel to Wisconsin during the general election, and her campaign spent a very limited amount of resources on Michigan, even though she narrowly lost the state to Sanders in the primary. Yet, former Clinton campaign officials consistently claim politics and policy were not responsible for their loss. Instead, they blame Russia, former FBI director James Comey, Sanders, WikiLeaks, voter suppression, the Green Party, and anything else that may help them deflect attention from what really happened.

These so-called moderates from the centrist wing of the Democratic Party had their shot against Trump in 2016. They failed. And now they are panicked because — of all the politicians who may pose the biggest threat to Trump’s re-election — it is Bernie Sanders, who they did everything to crush in 2016 so Clinton could have her turn as a Democratic presidential nominee.

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