Oh sure, there are a few Republicans, such as retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who are willing to address this issue, but the mainstream Republican Party is hardly willing to admit that a crisis exists, much less that it requires vast reductions in carbon emissions. The Trump administration is actually exacerbating the problem by lifting regulations on emissions.
Similarly, the GOP has no health plan beyond eviscerating the Affordable Care Act; President Trump keeps promising a “phenomenal” health plan, but it never quite arrives. Here’s what else the GOP doesn’t have: No infrastructure plan. No entitlement reform plan. No deficit reduction plan. No immigration reform plan. No income inequality plan. No election security plan.
Growing up in the 1980s, I remember when the GOP was the party of ideas. Now it’s brain dead. It’s a party that caters to Trump’s insatiable ego and to the grievances of racists and xenophobes but has no solutions to offer. Its big ideas — cut taxes and appoint conservative judges — are more than 40 years old.
When Trump kicked off his reelection with a giant rally in Orlando, he seemed to be trapped in a time warp, repeating the same tired lines about “Crooked Hillary” (who most voters have noticed is not running this time) and “Build the Wall” (which still isn’t being built). Even the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which can hardly be accused of anti-Trumpism, complained that “the only thing missing was an agenda for 2020.”
Meanwhile, the Democrats have an embarrassment of intellectual riches — or is it fool’s gold? Democrats deserve credit for engaging with big issues such as climate change and income inequality and coming up with bold, imaginative solutions.
The problem is that most of their ideas are impractical. Elizabeth Warren alone has proposed up to $36.5 trillion in new spending over the next 10 years; her tax plan won’t come close to covering the cost of nearly doubling federal spending. Bernie Sanders’s response: Hold my beer. He just proposed to wipe out $1.6 trillion in student debt, thereby providing a budget-busting subsidy that would benefit many well-off college graduates.
When Democrats aren’t being fiscally reckless, they are economically irresponsible. Democrats bemoan corporate greed and have not a positive word to say about the entrepreneurs that have made our economy the envy of the world. They are just as one-sided as Trump when he natters on about immigrant crime and never has a positive word to say about the contributions of immigrants.
The first round of debates made clear that many of the leading Democratic candidates are moving even further left at a dizzying pace. A few of the highlights:
· Julián Castro berated Beto O’Rourke for his unwillingness to decriminalize unlawful entry into the United States. Many of the other candidates, including Warren, joined Castro in favor of decriminalizing undocumented immigration.
· Virtually all the candidates vowed to provide free medical care to undocumented immigrants.
· Kamala D. Harris, Sanders and Warren promised, as part of Medicare-for-all, to abolish private health plans — plans that insure 49 percent of Americans and that 69 percent of respondents rate as “good” or “excellent.” (On Friday, Harris tried to walk back her position, creating confusion about where she really stands.)
· Harris promised to impose gun control, including a ban on the import of assault weapons, by executive order if necessary, continuing Trump’s trend of bypassing Congress.
· Many of the candidates promised to end “endless wars” without ever grappling with what would happen if the Taliban took over Afghanistan or Islamic State arose again in Syria and Iraq.
Of the more moderate candidates, only Pete Buttigieg showed any spark. The others, including Joe Biden, seemed ill at ease in a Democratic Party that has veered sharply to the left since President Barack Obama left office just 2½ years ago. Harris even criticized the Obama administration for too many deportations.
Trump wants to portray Democrats as open-border socialists, and in their eagerness to court progressive primary voters, the candidates are playing into his hands. Trump tweeted during the second debate: “All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!?” Expect to hear a lot of such invective for the next 16 months from a president whose foremost skill is tearing down his opponents.
Trump doesn’t need his own agenda if he can terrify independent voters in swing states about what would happen if the Democratic agenda is implemented. I doubt that any Democratic president would actually be so extreme; it would be nearly impossible to pass far-left legislation in a closely divided Senate. But Democrats would be well advised to tone down their rhetoric. Don’t forget that 35 percent of voters — like me — describe themselves as moderates. Only 26 percent call themselves liberals.