How Democrats can avoid losing

Staff Columnist

By Ted Van DykIn The Wall Street Journal (Friday, My 31, 2019)

Typically a Democratic presidential nominating field contains candidates  from various flanks of the party.  This year most contenders are taking positions that aim to attract activists who work  and vote in early primaries and caucuses – but that could result in landslide defeat in November.  Fortunately, there’s still time to adjust.  Here’s  how.

–Don’t pursue impeachment.  The Mueller report disappointed  many Democrats by failing to find collusion between Russians and and the Trump campaign.  But House committee chairmen and other impeachment hawks have continued to press investigations of the president on bases ranging from his private business dealings to legally required Mueller report redactions.  The Justice Department, meanwhile is looking into allegations that Obama Obama era intelligence and law-enforcement  officials colluded to undertake legal actions  against the 2016 Trump campaign.  Voters are exhahsted and disgusted by all of it and desperate for bipartisan action on salient policy issues.


Reject the Green New Deal 

This proposal, which some candidates have already embraced, is economically and technologically impossible.  It would create wrenching economic dislocations.  By rejecting nuclear power, it would  continue to make near-term reliance on fossil fuels a necessity.

Candidates would be wise to  embrace the prior consensus view on the issue: Gradually diminishing use of  fossil fuels and their replacement with renewable forms of energy, including nuclear.


Moderate Medicare for All

  This attractively named proposal comes with a price tag that would bust the federal budget and frighten voters.  A practical and affordable way station within Medicare of catastrophic coverage for all Americans.  That would relieve Americans fear of being left destitute by lengthy and expensive medical conditions and it would be far les expensive than dismantling private health insurance.

— Embrace immigration reform.  Even Trump critics now concede there is a crisis at the border.  But both parties are posturing rather than collaborating.  Democratic candidates should move beyond denouncing  Mr. Trump and Immigration and Customs  Enforcement to comprehensive proposals including  not only border security but regularization of status of the millions of illegal aliens and an eventual path to citizenship.


Reject identity politics

  A proud Democratic history of pursuing equality of opportunity without regard to race, ethnicity, sex, religion, sexual orientation or other irrelevance has given way to an identity politics based on victimhood, ugly accusations such as ‘white privilege’ and ‘toxic masculinity’, and dramatic but empty symbolism such as destroying confederate monuments and demanding reparations for slavery.    Democrats should instead concentrate on the plight of black Americans in inner cities plagued by high crime, violence, incarceration, school dropout and unemployment rates.  They should propose measures to restore family structure and provide fair and effective policing and job skills training.”

More from Mr. Van Dyk:   “ – Make tax policy .fair.

Democrats took the lead  a generation ago to remove loopholes and unjustifiable preferences from the tax code.  The result was the bipartisan 1986 reform law, which reduced the number of brackets and the rates for all taxpayers, thus generating new economic growth and employment.  Do it again – remove all deductions but health expenses and home mortgage interest.  Instead, current candidates stress raising tax rates on the rich (which would raise little revenue) and placing tighter regulation on business.


Stop promising free stuff

  Ideas like a guaranteed income for people who don’t work, free college, and tax-payer assumption of student debt appeal to defined groups of voters but are unaffordable and  out of line with most Americans’ core values.


Respect the other side on abortion

States will continue restriction or expansion of abortion rights.  In defending these rights, however, advocates would do well  to recognize that the country is closely divided on the issue and that a strong majority of the pro-choice  voters oppose late-term abortions.  This is an issue on which people of good-will honestly disagree based on religious, ethical and other values.

Defense of Roe v. Wade should be based on that realization.

It is important for presidential aspirants to lead rather than follow avid partisan constituencies.  A cautionary example is 1972.  Democrats lost a 49-state landslide to incumbent Richard Nixon, notwithstanding a flat economy and Watergate.  I served as policy director of Geoorge McGovern’s campaign.  McGovern strongly opposed the Vietnam War, and ran to end it, but otherwise held moderate views on a range of issues.  Perty activists stressed divisive cultural and social issues, which rubbed off on McGovern.  He became known as the candidate of ‘acid, amnesty and abortion’- and not only among  Republicans.  Decades later columnist Robert Novak revealed that quote came from Sen Thomas Eagelton of Missouri, who briefly became McGovern’s running mate.”

Mr. Van Dyk concludes:  “Democrats, if you’re serious about winning in 2020, put aside Trump rage and impeachment fever and give voters reason to believe you’ll calm the acrimony and restore bipartisan problem-solving in the capital,At the same time, develop a platform and message that can command support from a majority of the electorate.  Don’t let the cheering end at the nominating conventiom.”

(Mr.Van Dyk was active in Democratic national policy and politics for 40 years.  He is author.of ‘Heroes, Hacks and Fools’(University of Washington  Press, 2007).

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1 Response for “How Democrats can avoid losing”

  1. graham forbes says:

    The Democrats need to field a young, dynamic candidate who can bring unity and change.
    That’s exactly why people voted for Obama.
    They got smug in the last election because they thought they had the intellectual high ground.
    Clinton was too old and steeped in the status quo, Bernie should never have been in the frame except as an advisor.
    No one is at their best at 70. The job of Potus should be filled by someone in their 50s.

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