Do you find it odd that so many of the Democrats running for the 2020 nomination are making the case that they want to defeat Donald Trump but are acting more and more like him as the competition heats up? That may sound counterintuitive, but it’s an idea being put forward by Michael Scherer at the WaPo this week.
No, the Democrats (plus Bernie Sanders) aren’t demanding we make America great again, leading chants about building the wall or decrying illegal immigration. But they are arguably pushing significantly more radical ideas from the other end of the political spectrum and “swinging for the fences” without any coherent plan for how to realistically achieve their goals. The only objective at the moment is to ramp up the volume and try to capture the energy that the crowds demonstrated for Trump (and to a lesser extent, Bernie Sanders) in 2016.
Tear down the border wall. Pay slavery reparations. Upgrade every building in America. Tax the assets of rich people, and pack the Supreme Court with four new liberal judges.
The newest class of Democratic presidential candidates has been swinging for the fences in recent weeks by embracing or entertaining a head-snapping list of policy ideas that were either rejected or ignored by the party’s previous standard-bearers…
What matters, candidates increasingly say, is demonstrating ambitious goals and political courage. And they are doing what they can every day on the trail to show their credentials as visionaries.
It’s hard to be “a visionary” when you’ve been thrust into a sparring ring with as many as twenty other people who all want to be seen as visionaries as well. The only way to stand out from the crowd is to offer increasingly unrealistic proposals. Scherer highlights one set of remarks given by Cory Booker recently. (In case you forgot, Booker is running even though he barely registers in the national polling.) He mocks the people who look at the Green New Deal and wonder if it’s either impractical or too expensive. To address those concerns, he said: “If we used to govern our dreams that way, we would have never have gone to the moon.”
That’s basically the same as the answer MSNBC host Chris Hayes offered on Twitter when the issue of how to pay for Medicare for all came up.
I think a good answer for "How will you pay for your agenda?" is "We're a very rich country. We'll figure it out."
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 27, 2018
While there are definite parallels between some of President Trump’s tactics in 2016 and what we’re seeing today, it’s still a very imperfect comparison. Both candidate Trump and the current crop of Democrats were offering up ideas that got a lot of people excited, but there’s a key difference. Trump’s plans for building a wall, cutting taxes and bringing back jobs weren’t impossible or unaffordable. (Well… at least in the short term when it comes to the tax cuts.) The cost of the most badly needed sections of border construction is a pittance compared to previous government expenditures like the Obama stimulus bill. The effort is only being blocked by politics.
The tax cuts already happened. The unemployment rate has plunged. None of those things were fantasies built from unicorn flatulence. When you stack those ideas up against single payer health insurance, the Green New Deal and “free” college tuition for everyone in the nation, the difference is clear. Democrats are ginning up their base by offering impossible dreams. Trump was only asking to line up a modest fleet of cement trucks. So while the tactics of the Democrats may be starting to look more and more Trumpian, the underlying realities are miles apart.