Still, Sanders didn’t win, Warren has come in for her share of criticism, and many Democrats didn’t follow Sanders in embracing Medicare-for-all, which is expensive (just how expensive is a matter of some fierce debate) and, at this point, not politically viable. Moreover, as we have noted, it was a rough election for progressives, after losses in the Georgia and Florida gubernatorial races and failing to flip a single Republican-held seat with a Sanders-approved super-progressive. Moderate Democrats, meanwhile, flipped a slew of Republican-held seats in the suburbs, picked up Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona, and won governor races in Michigan and Kansas.
Moreover, when you look at foreign policy, most Democrats these days don’t sound like left-wing doves. They want to get tough on Russia, stand up for human rights, bolster NATO and reestablish U.S. leadership in the world.
Contrary to Trump’s specious claim, no elected Democrat is advocating “open borders”; they are begging the president to accept more than a billion dollars for border security in exchange for relief for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
It’s mainstream Democrats these days who are defending the integrity of law enforcement and the professionalism of our intelligence community. It’s Democrats who are manning the barricades in defense of the rule of law and imploring courts to enforce the plain meaning of the Constitution when it comes to appointments and emoluments. The party as a whole sounds more originalist than the self-proclaimed originalists on the right.
Now, you say, this might all be a temporary tactic simply to defeat Trump. That’s entirely possible, but for now, the most successful candidates in 2018 generally chose a centrist message.
Don’t get me wrong: There’s a lot of energy on the left of the Democratic Party, but if Bloomberg runs, he likely won’t be the only middle-of-the-road contender. Former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe and other pragmatic Democrats are just a few of the moderates getting attention as potential candidates.
It’s noteworthy, if not downright amusing, that progressives have taken to attacking Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) as insufficiently progressive because, among other things, he didn’t want to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or embrace Medicare-for-all. O’Rourke is plenty liberal but should send the Sanders troops a fruit basket for casting him as something other than a doctrinaire progressive.
The New York Times reports, “Like Mr. Obama as he entered the 2008 campaign, Mr. O’Rourke can be difficult to place on an ideological spectrum, allowing supporters to project their own politics onto a messaging palette of national unity and common ground — and concerning some activists on the left who worry that voters are valuing the wrong qualities.”
Whether O’Rourke is the Goldilocks candidate — not too progressive, but progressive enough — remains to be seen. Democrats, however, would be wise to heed former FBI director James B. Comey, who conceded that Democrats will have plenty of ideological arguments, but “they have to win.” If that means picking a less dreamy candidate over a darling of the party’s far left, there shouldn’t be much question as to which way to go.
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