Democrats, beware: We are leaning left too far

As the 2018 election seasons draws to a climax, political junkies — and I confess, I remain one — already are looking to 2020 and expounding theories about what could happen. In one sense, that’s a foolish venture because politics is hard to forecast even a few weeks in advance, let alone two years. But it is fun to speculate, and there are some trends that have occurred this year that could be extremely impactful in 2020 if they continue.

For Democrats, one trend that has taken hold is quite alarming: our swing to the far left. That trend has been exemplified by almost all of our putative presidential candidates. The two clearest examples of trying to appeal to our base by being as progressive as possible were the rush to embrace a “single-payer” health care system after Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group Ex-Obama campaign manager: Sanders can't beat Trump Booker calls for sweeping voting rights reforms MORE (I-Vt.) publicly endorsed it, and the stampede to call for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).


Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan really was not unexpected; he talked about single-payer during the 2016 campaign. But when he reiterated it, loudly and clearly, his words brought a rapid endorsements from almost all other Democrats who are hinting at presidential aspirations. If you’ve read one of my columns in The Hill, you know that I think single-payer could work under certain circumstances but I am troubled by its initial expense and taxes we would have to raise to make it work early on. In the few places it has been tried, such as Vermont, it was repealed because it was simply unworkable and unfundable.

Regardless of your opinion on its merits, single-payer is not a reasonable solution to the challenge of making health care accessible and affordable; it will never get the 60 votes necessary in the Senate, even if Democrats were to win back the chamber on Nov. 6. Our candidates should work for solutions that are politically achievable, and not appeal to voters with a plan they know cannot become reality. (That’s like saying, “Mexico would pay for the wall.”) I would respect our wannabes more if they would make realistic proposals for reform.

The rush to declare their progressive bona fides through this topic was matched by a similar charge to pledge the abolition of ICE. Now, it’s clear that ICE is a mess, needs reforming and a serious reordering of its priorities. But among other things, ICE is charged with — and performs adequately — keeping out young people who are being forced into our country to become sex slaves, drug dealers, etc. The proper response for someone wanting to be U.S. president should be similar to the answer regarding the ACA: “Mend it, don’t end it.” Kudos to Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' 20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall MORE (D-Minn.) for endorsing this commonsense approach.

The “abolish ICE” movement came at a terrible time for the Democratic Party because, in the weeks preceding the movement’s arise, the Trump administration was getting savaged — and deservedly so — for its idiotic policy of separating families at the southern border. Public opinion polls were so strong against the administration that the divider-in-chief was forced to sign an executive order to keep migrant families together. His unfavorable ratings were shooting up, but we Democrats came to his rescue by letting him change the subject — to say that Democrats wanted to abolish ICE and leave the border defenseless. That may appear to be a totally illogical argument, but it effectively redirected attention and halted the bleeding for President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE.

One more glaring incident of our far-left overreach occurred immediately after Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughOn The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job GOP strategist: Alabama Republicans need to 'gather around' candidate who 'is not Roy Moore' Warren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 MORE’s confirmation. Let me begin by saying that I believe Christine Ford and Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Had I the opportunity, I would have voted no on Kavanaugh’s confirmation because of that, and also because he clearly demonstrated partisanship and an inclination to vitriolic revenge that makes him unqualified to sit on the Supreme Court.

However, once he was confirmed, we should have let the issue drop. But too many of our most vociferous progressive candidates and progressive media outlets promised that Democrats will begin impeachment proceedings against Justice Kavanaugh if we take back the House. First of all, that’s another promise that never could be achieved. Yes, if we win the election, and if every Democratic House member voted to impeach Justice Kavanaugh, we could send his case to the Senate for trial.

But, of course, there is no way we would ever get 66 votes to convict him and remove him from the court. So, they were guilty of making a shallow promise with no basis in reality. By doing this, Democrats gave ammunition to the Republicans, ensuring their base has a reason to vote by making the treatment of Justice Kavanaugh a weapon. This helped create momentum that dramatically reduced the Democratic Party’s lead in the enthusiasm gap among voters.

So, the moral of the story is: if we continue to tack to the far left in the 2020 election cycle, we surely will see another four years of President Trump (please, no!). But, if we recalibrate our thinking and come up with a solid left-of-center candidate (e.g. Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenMcAuliffe says he won't run for president in 2020 Ex-Obama campaign manager: Sanders can't beat Trump Trump says he'd like to run against Buttigieg MORE, Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Klobuchar, or Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneySeveral 2020 Dems say they're ready to face Fox News town hall Booker denies 'swipe' at John Delaney after his campaign sent fundraising email attacking Delaney The Hill's 12:30 Report: First look at 2020 money race MORE of Maryland) we just might win — and take the House and Senate as well.

Edward G. Rendell was the 45th governor of Pennsylvania. He is a former mayor of Philadelphia and former district attorney in that city. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election. He is now co-chairman of the Immigration Task Force at the Bipartisan Policy Center.