Democratic candidates are worried about maintaining their progressive cred without alienating centrists or succumbing to accusations from the right of a socialist takeover. The surprise is that you can’t actually do both of those things because you’re going to get called socialist anyway!
The Washington Post reports that some 2020 hopefuls are already couching Medicare for All and the Green New Deal in optimistic, but somewhat skeptical terms. In New Hampshire, Sen. Cory Booker told a crowd of supporters that Medicare for all would be difficult to pass and may, instead, require incremental changes. He made sure to mention, “I’m not going to be one of these presidential candidates that’s not going to tell you the hard truth.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the most happy to be a centrist centrist in the primary right now, described Medicare for All as a regrettably unrealistic immediate goal, pivoting to her proposal to expand Medicaid instead. And though Sen. Elizabeth Warren reportedly spoke about improving healthcare during a town hall in South Carolina, she never once uttered the term “Medicare for All,” despite, like virtually every other declared Democratic primary candidate right now, co-sponsoring a bill in favor of its implementation. Meanwhile, the Green New Deal has become more of a wish list for senators to tout their dedication to the environment than a program that should include actual policy commitments.
While this could easily be brushed off as an attempt to avoid scaring off centrists or Independents from the Democratic fold, they may also indicate real concern that the Democratic candidates have toward actual social democracy.
From the Washington Post:
Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement Tuesday responding to [Sen. Bernie] Sanders’s announcement, saying he had “already won the debate in the Democrat primary, because every candidate is embracing his brand of socialism.”
The president made a similar point in his State of the Union address earlier this month.
“We are alarmed by the new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” Trump said, reviving a line of attack Republicans have sought to use against Democrats for decades.
The idea of socialism is having a perplexing moment in the American conscious at the moment, probably because more and more young people really like it.
A recent Gallup poll shows that registered Democrats view capitalism less positively than they used to. And popular politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez openly identify as democratic socialists. Since Sanders announced his candidacy for president on Tuesday, he has received over $6 million in donations.
And as more mainstream politicians explicitly identify with social democracy, others are actively distancing themselves. Sen. Kamala Harris recently said at a town hall that she does not identify as a democratic socialist, which both validates the growing popularity of the political identification and removes herself from the more lefty corners of her party.
But it’s the insistence on doing the latter that’s curious, and may become more common. Warren is avoiding the same thing.
From the Washington Post:
Asked how she can combat the “false news going around” that equates universal health care with “socialism or communism,” Warren turned the question back on Trump.
“We’re caught in this moment where the very foundations of democracy are under attack,” Warren said. “This is a scary moment for our country.”
Charges of socialism aren’t going to go away and will likely be very popular during for our mush brained president and cable news hosts during the 2020 presidential election cycle. So the Democrats running right now, even if they’re a far way off from actual socialism, need to decide whether the label will scare them or not. Being wishy washy doesn’t cut it anymore.