Demo­cratic can­di­dates aren’t on a win­ning track

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY VIC­TOR DAVIS HAN­SON Vic­tor Davis Han­son is a clas­si­cist and his­to­rian at the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion, Stan­ford University. Email: au­[email protected]

Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates from both par­ties usu­ally sound hard-core in the pri­maries to appeal to their pro­gres­sive or con­ser­va­tive bases. But for the gen­eral elec­tion, the nom­i­nees move to the cen­ter to pick off swing vot­ers and cen­trist in­de­pen­dents.

Vot­ers put up with the scripted tac­tic as long as a can­di­date had not gone too extreme in the pri­maries and en­dorsed po­si­tions too far out of the main­stream.

A good ex­am­ple of this suc­cess­ful ploy was Barack Obama’s 2008 cam­paign. In the pri­mary against Hil­lary Clin­ton, Obama ran to her left. But he was still care­ful not to get caught on the record go­ing too far left. That way, he was still able to tack to the cen­ter against John McCain in the gen­eral elec­tion.

As a gen­eral elec­tion

can­di­date, Obama re­jected the idea of gay mar­riage. He blasted il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. He railed against deficit spend­ing. And he went so far as to la­bel then-Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush as “un­pa­tri­otic” for taking out “a credit card from the bank of China in the name of our chil­dren, driv­ing up our na­tional debt.”

The re­sult was that Obama was elected.

Yet the cur­rent crop of would-be Demo­cratic nom­i­nees has for­got­ten the old script en­tirely. Nearly all of them are cur­rently run­ning so hard to the left that the suc­cess­ful nom­i­nee will never be able to ap­pear mod­er­ate.

Bernie Sanders leads the charge for abol­ish­ing all stu­dent debt. Ka­mala Har­ris wants repa­ra­tions for slav­ery. Joe Bi­den talks of jail­ing health in­sur­ance ex­ec­u­tives if they falsely ad­ver­tise.

The en­tire field seems to agree that it should not be a crim­i­nal of­fense to en­ter the U.S. il­le­gally. The con­sen­sus ap­pears to be that no il­le­gal en­trant will be de­ported un­less he or she has com­mit­ted a serious crime.

Not a sin­gle Demo­cratic can­di­date has ex­pressed reser­va­tions about abor­tions, and a num­ber of them have fought pro­posed restric­tions on par­tial-birth abor­tions.

El­iz­a­beth War­ren has said guns are a na­tional health emer­gency and would not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of fed­eral gun con­fis­ca­tion.

Early in the cam­paign, no ma­jor Demo­cratic can­di­date has ques­tioned the Green New Deal and its rad­i­cal pro­pos­als. No one has much ob­jected to dis­man­tling U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment or scrap­ping the Elec­toral Col­lege. An un­work­able wealth tax and a top mar­ginal in­come tax rate of 70% or higher are also OK.

Yet none of these po­si­tions cur­rently wins 51% of pub­lic sup­port, ac­cord­ing to polls.

What are the Demo­cratic fron­trun­ners think­ing?

Maybe the can­di­dates as­sume that the present Demo­cratic Party is so rad­i­cal and so steeped in iden­tity pol­i­tics that every­one must run to the left of all other ri­vals, even if in­sin­cerely so. Then, once nom­i­nated, the survivor can back off from his or her ear­lier rad­i­cal­ism, move to the cen­ter in the gen­eral elec­tion and hope that vot­ers pre­fer a cen­trist hyp­ocrite to an un­apolo­getic rad­i­cal.

A second the­ory is that we are watch­ing a sort of pro­gres­sive feed­ing frenzy. Twenty or so can­di­dates have be­come dis­con­nected from real­ity. In their echo cham­ber, they have no idea that they are talk­ing rad­i­cal non­sense.

A third pos­si­bil­ity is that the Demo­cratic can­di­dates be­lieve the polling on these is­sues is wrong. They may as­sume that the Amer­i­can peo­ple ei­ther have moved hard left and re­ally do be­lieve in a rad­i­cal agenda, or can be per­suaded with enough time and ef­fort.

There is a fourth hy­poth­e­sis. It may be that the Demo­cratic Party would rather lose in a fashion it con­sid­ers noble than win in­sin­cerely.

Maybe the goal for Demo­cratic can­di­dates is to ad­vance the hard-left cause, even if Democrats sus­pect it will mean that their nom­i­nee will lose to Don­ald Trump in the November 2020 elec­tion.

Such blind ide­al­ism is not un­prece­dented in Amer­i­can elec­toral his­tory. Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Barry Gold­wa­ter knew early on that his hardright po­si­tions would likely mean a big loss to Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son in 1964, but per­haps Gold­wa­ter hoped to lay the foun­da­tion of a new con­ser­va­tive move­ment.

Ge­orge McGovern, the 1972 Demo­cratic nom­i­nee, may have sus­pected that he would be de­mol­ished by in­cum­bent Richard Nixon. But the hardleft McGovern none­the­less sought to preach a new sort of pro­gres­sivism rarely em­braced by Democrats.

Gold­wa­ter and McGovern lost in land­slides. Yet even­tu­ally, true-blue con­ser­va­tive Ron­ald Rea­gan be­came the heir to Gold­wa­ter in much the same way that Obama would be­come their heir to McGovern.

If all of these ex­pla­na­tions seem far out, it’s only be­cause the cur­rent Demo­cratic can­di­dates sound far out — as if they ei­ther don’t know how to win in 2020 or don’t care to win at all.

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