Democrats should resist universal health care and not move too far left, says ... Jimmy Carter

He got elected as a centrist Democrat, not a far-leftist, so in that sense this is unsurprising. But it’s always troubling when someone whom you believe reliably has bad ideas coughs up one with which you agree. If Carter thinks Democrats should lean towards the center, should they … not lean towards the center? Full socialism is the key to electoral success, just like the tankies say?

Imagine if he turns around tomorrow and agrees with the Heller ruling that the Second Amendment is an individual right.

What do we do then?

“Independents need to know they can invest their vote in the Democratic Party,” Carter said Tuesday during his annual report at his post-presidential center and library in Atlanta, where he offered caution about the political consequences should Democrats “move to a very liberal program, like universal health care.”

That’s delicate — and, Carter acknowledged, even contradictory — advice coming from the 93-year-old former president, and it underscores the complicated political calculations for Democrats as they prepare for the November midterms and look ahead to the 2020 presidential election.

“Rosie and I voted for Bernie Sanders in the past,” Carter noted…

Carter alluded to arguments from self-identified progressives that Democrats will sacrifice votes on the left if they don’t embrace the liberal base: “I don’t think any Democrat is going to vote against a Democratic nominee,” and he insisted that he’s not asking the left to sacrifice its goals, only to see that winning elections is necessary to accomplish any of them.

Most left-wing Democrats won’t vote against a Democratic nominee but some will. (Right, Michigan?) And some will stay home. As for independents, left-leaning indies actually preferred Sanders to Clinton in 2016. Carter’s assuming that independents are centrists for whom both parties are too ideologically extreme, which is true of some but not all. Some are people for whom the party to which they’re closest ideologically isn’t extreme enough.

Bernie Sanders himself is an independent, is he not?

The truly weird thing about this is Carter noting that he himself backed Sanders two years ago. Exit question via Dave Weigel, marveling at Carter’s admonition about universal health care here: What does he think Bernie’s position on health care was?