Now that more and more people are throwing their hats into the Democratic presidential nomination ring, and now that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the “it-girl” of the Left’s political rhetoric, serious people are starting to question the leftward shift of the Democratic Part. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz noticed and, having concluded that he’d have no chance at the Dem nomination were he to run as the “moderate” he considers himself to be, is contemplating an independent run at the White House. Leftists are aghast, have started screaming that such a run by Schultz would only serve to get Trump re-elected, and some are even bullying him to reconsider.

The accuracy of such fears notwithstanding, the underlying question regarding the Dems’ leftward lurch remains. Why are all the candidates, announced, and prospective, falling all over themselves in bids to out-leftist each other? Why has the Sanders agenda, now being advocated and amplified by AOC, become the party line so quickly and thoroughly? Why are “Medicare for all,” imposing confiscatory taxes on the rich (and stealing their wealth), “free” college, massive minimum wage increases, removal of border controls, expansion of every social program imaginable, imposition of “green” environmental mandates, and the like now common, “must-have” planks to have a chance at the nomination?

One possibility is that these candidates believe that winning the nomination will be tantamount to winning the general election, given the broad antipathy to Trump among the electorate, and presuming a degree of disenchantment even among his core supporters. After all, that’s what got AOC her seat – she ran a savvy primary campaign in a district certain to send a Democrat to Congress. To win a primary, candidates typically have to appeal to the activist wing of the party, since that crowd tends to show up in greater numbers to the primaries. If the party taste-makers presume that the 2020 election will be a cake-walk, they may consider it a singular opportunity to run a far-left/progressive agenda.

This would ignore Obama’s crash-and-burn attempt to do so in 2009. Obama’s Democratic Party had, in 2009, complete control of the legislative and executive branches of government. Obama sought to leverage that total control into enacting socialized medicine. He failed, and not because of anything the Republicans did. His own party rejected it, in no small part because some of the traditional constituencies (see: unions) freaked out about losing their high-quality care. This over-reach spawned the Tea Party movement, and cost the Dems their super-majority, then the House, then the Senate. One would think that this history would suggest the party tack to the center in its quest to regain power, but ignoring history is a pretty common symptom of progressive politics, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it isn’t.

Indeed, it may be that the party actually thinks Trump’s unpopularity can be used to usher in a renewed attempt at taking America down the long-dreamed path to socialism. And, the rhetoric emanating from the candidates’ stampede leftward suggests that they think they can be more open about their aspirations than Obama was. Whereas Obama falsely promised “if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it,” Kamala Harris is making few bones about the fact that the “Medicare for All” plan she and others are touting would call for the banning of private insurance, a bridge that even the “model” nations in Europe haven’t crossed. That means that, per the linked Reason article, 177 million people would be forced off their current health care plans into the government monopoly. That the Dems think this is remotely a good idea boggles the mind. That they aren’t trying to hide it with lies, as Obama did, tells us that they think they can sell it to the public. Or, as shown by the way Harris dissembled about it, they think they can sneak it past the voters.

Full-blown socialized medicine, without even an option for supplemental coverage (currently, Medicare recipients can and often do buy “Medigap” insurance in the private market) isn’t enough, apparently. Two more “what are they thinking?!” proposals are running hot among the progressives: The Green New Deal and a campaign finance reform plan, called the For the People Act of 2019, that’s straight out of 1984.

The Green New Deal would seek to make the nation “carbon-neutral” in a decade – while shutting down nuclear power generation as well. The list of what that entails is mind-boggling: eliminate use of fossil fuels, upgrade EVERY building in the nation, build enough high speed rail to eliminate air travel, and… get this: provide “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.” Let me repeat that: “unwilling to work.” If you don’t feel like working, no problem, Aunty AOC will feed, clothe, and house you. And, probably, give you high speed internet, let you go to college to study comparative feminist basket weaving, etc, etc, AND… provide free health care.

Are they out of their [redacted] minds? The sheer economic destruction that even a partial attempt at this plan will cause beggars the imagination.

The campaign finance reform plan, which is on its face utterly unconstitutional, would amount to a government takeover of the election process, dox every person who makes a campaign contribution, decide who gets to say what, who gets to talk to which politicians, and who knows what else. This is the way of people who want to seize power and hold onto it no matter what the public may want thereafter. It’s as evil as the Green New Deal in its utter disregard for the people upon whom it will be foisted.

“Free” everything, onanistic utopian green fantasies, muzzling of the political opposition, massive incursions into business (the Democratic Socialism party wants to do away with corporations entirely), and we’re still a year from the first Presidential primaries. Who knows what other pie-in-the-sky fantasies the Dems will serve up between now and then, to top what they’ve already put forth?

More to the point, why are they doing this? Why are they proposing such radical actions?

The 24 hour news cycle, the outrage machine, and the instant nature of social media rewards the loud and outlandish. When everyone can be heard for negligible investment of time, resources, or effort, rising above the cacophony is the real challenge. And, certainly, if Cortez was advocating sane and rational policy ideas, no one would pay attention to her, because she’d just be another first-term Congresswoman. Ditto for Sanders, and Harris, and Warren, and all the other 2020 hopefuls – getting press coverage and increasing visibility virtually requires “hold my beer” one-upmanship. It worked for Trump, and gathered him mountains of free press coverage, so emulation is to be expected.

Thing is, while a presidential primary campaign can be derailed by a single gaffe, it’s not won “in-the-moment.” It’s an endurance event, and a message that resonates with the wild fringes doesn’t always translate well into the late stages of a primary or into the general election. It’s expected that candidates will tack toward the hard-core party members during primaries, and tack back to the center in the general, but how does anyone walk back these wild proposals? Moreso, how will the nominee try to capture the swing vote without prompting dissent or narrative-stealing from the AOC crowd? Cortez herself has already shown she’s willing to speak “out of turn” against the party’s leadership, and the Democratic Socialists aren’t going to go quietly if the Democratic nominee tries to capture the middle.

The Democratic Party is building a platform that won’t easily be tempered after the primary scrum is over. Unless, that is, the white-hot elements of the party burn out before the primaries get fully underway, and a more tempered “dark horse” candidate emerges to take the nom away from those who are grabbing the current headlines. It’s odd to think that AOC is currently in the role of king-maker, but it’s apparent that several candidates feel they have to throw in with her proposals in order to appear relevant. Whether this bites them in the tail a year from now remains to be seen.

These candidates may indeed see this next Presidential election as the equivalent of Cortez’s victory: win the primary, and the general election is a sure thing. This underestimates Trump, in my opinion, and overestimates the nation’s degree of discomfort or antipathy toward him and his presidency, but that’s not germane – it’s the thinking within Democratic circles that’s the driver of all this.

For myriad reasons, the Dems are indeed shooting the moon on policy ideas. They’re relying on the outrage machine to carry them to victory, and they’re mirroring Trump’s playbook in many ways. Trump, however, for all his rhetorical excess and boorishness, had a platform, both in promise and in execution, that is relatively pedestrian as far as politics goes. The Dems are engaging in their version of rhetorical excess and offering dripping condescension instead of boorishness. But, they’re not proposing mainstream Democratic-leaning ideas. They’re offering up truly radical changes to the nation. Whether that’s by design or the result of a confluence of events doesn’t matter. They’ve hitched their wagon to a team of wild horses, and it’s a scary ride. For all of us.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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