Democrats will not beat Trump without moderate policy ideas

Democrats will not beat Trump without moderate policy ideas
© Getty Images

The contentious Democratic debate last week further exposed the deep divisions within the party over critical issues such as health care, immigration, and trade. Sharing the stage for the first time, frontrunners former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Ex-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Parnas says he doesn't think that Joe Biden did anything wrong regarding Ukraine MORE and Senator Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenEx-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Former Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball rips Warren over feud with Sanders MORE opposed one another on policy, rhetorical style, and vision for the party.

While Biden presents a moderate, traditional, and pragmatic direction for the party, Warren is focused on the far left, bold ideas, and systemic changes. To be sure, candidates at this point in the primary season can and should embrace slightly different policy stances. However, as the field begins to narrow and the early primary state elections grow nearer, Democrats must work to bridge the gap between the progressive and moderate factions of the party and unite behind a center of left narrative.

The party must first and foremost unite itself. Besides the progressive tag team of Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersEx-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Former Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball rips Warren over feud with Sanders MORE and Warren, who ideologically align and hence refrain from attacking one another, there has infrequently been any display of unity between the candidates, particularly on health care.

ADVERTISEMENT

This divide was evident during the confrontational debate over health care between the frontrunners. While Warren and Sanders attacked Biden for his health care plan not going far enough to guarantee coverage, Biden attacked his progressive contenders for the hidden costs associated with their “Medicare for All” plans.

In addition to the discussions over policy, the debate became mean spirited and even unnecessarily personal at times. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian CastroJulian CastroBiden says he would consider Castro, O'Rourke for VP, Cabinet positions Joaquin Castro follows brother in backing Warren Deval Patrick knocks lack of diversity in Democratic debate MORE took a personal jab at Biden for his age, insinuating that the former vice president could not remember something he said two minutes before.

Afterward, instead of denouncing the personal attack, Senator Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNew Hampshire state lawmaker switches support from Warren to Klobuchar Here are the 10 senators who voted against Trump's North American trade deal Team Trump criticizes Sanders for vote against USMCA MORE decided to peddle the line further when asked about the moment. “I think that we are at a tough point right now, because there are a lot of people concerned about Joe Biden’s ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling,” Booker said after the debate. But several other candidates disagreed with Castro, including Senator Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSanders says he's concerned about lost campaign time during impeachment trial Sanders touts vote against Trump trade deal backed by primary rivals New Hampshire state lawmaker switches support from Warren to Klobuchar MORE, who called the attacks “personal” and “unnecessary.”

Beyond disunity over policy matters, there is a more bitter divide within the party between the old versus the new and the pragmatic versus the progressive. However, if Democrats have any chance of beating President TrumpDonald John TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president MORE, they must unify as one party around a center of left growth agenda that is palatable to general election voters.

Despite what the left most fringes of the Democratic Party, and even those in the mainstream media, have been saying, the United States is a center to center of right capitalist nation. A Gallup Poll conducted earlier this year found that moderates and conservatives make up 70 percent of the country, while only 25 percent of voters identify as liberal.

ADVERTISEMENT

Further, even during the 2016 campaign when Sanders was running against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFormer Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' NYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info New Hampshire state lawmaker switches support from Warren to Klobuchar MORE, a Gallup Poll found that only about 35 percent of Americans had a positive image of socialism, compared to 60 percent who held a positive view of capitalism. Moreover, Clinton lurching to the left, largely as a result of the energy surrounding the progressive Sanders campaign, cost her key Midwestern states that former President Obama won in both 2008 and 2012, which instead went to Trump in 2016.

Ultimately, it has not been long since Clinton stunningly lost, and Democrats would be wise to heed to the lessons learned three years ago of the dangers of going too far left. Therefore, the party needs to unite around a candidate and a narrative that appeals to working class voters and emphasizes a moderate message of economic growth, reasonable health care reform, and compromise on immigration reform.

If the party instead chooses a far left progressive position, the Democrats will lose the White House and likely solidify a permanent Republican majority Senate. Democrats cannot be the party that supports choking regulations, eliminating choice on health care, and forgives all illegal border crossings. It is an ineffective message that will not resonate with the swing voters that Democrats need to win over the most.

If Democrats are going to take back the White House in 2020, a prospect far from guaranteed, they will need a positive and proactive agenda to heal a nation in crisis, not inflame the tensions that led to Trump.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”