On the first night of the second round of Democratic debates, a whole lot of people stood up to announce they were The Pragmatic Guy Who Gets Things Done. The thesis of the Pragmatic Guys is that progressives like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are pie-in-the-sky hippies, and the way to win elections is to offer incremental, piecemeal solutions to massive structural issues in our society. They are apparently under the impression that Hillary Clinton lost because she was too far left, or freaked out the mythical White Working-Class Voter with her overambitious proposals on healthcare. One such Pragmatic Guy is John Delaney, who worked in the private healthcare sector before he got into politics as a congressman from Maryland. And Delaney in particular seems to see his role as Diet Howard Schultz: tell other candidates their more ambitious plans simply cannot be done.
As CNN's Dana Bash brought up at one point in the debate, Delaney has dismissed the Green New Deal as "about as realistic as Trump saying that Mexico will pay for the wall." Considering we have a decade to make fundamental changes to our society and economy in order to prevent catastrophic damage to human civilization as we know it, we better make a plan of this scale—whether it's the GND or something like it—"realistic." But Delaney really dug his centrist trench on healthcare, where he dismissed Medicare For All in favor of a public option. But he spent less time advocating for that public option, or universal healthcare, than going after folks like Elizabeth Warren for their support for MFA. Here was Warren's response at one point.
WARREN ethers Delaney: "I don't understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States to talk about what we really can't do and shouldn't fight for." pic.twitter.com/ymDj6ggsve— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 31, 2019
The fact of the matter is that only one major American political party cowers in fear at opinion polls, while the other one seeks to shape them. Yes, a strong majority of Americans who have employer-sponsored health insurance say they like it. But how much time have Democrats really spent trying to educate people on the alternatives, to try to sway people? Are folks such big fans of their insurance because it's all they know, or they're happy to have something when so many have nothing? Or do they really like deductibles and co-pays and having to switch doctors when their employer changes providers and they're suddenly out-of-network? And, based on the last decade, does anyone believe that proposing a compromise—a public option—will yield that compromise in the end once it's barreled through the gauntlet of Congress?
Beyond all that, though, there's the basic Democratic illness of making mountains into mole hills. "Just got back from the centrist rally," reads a famous tweet. "Amazing turnout. Thousands of people holding hands and chanting 'Better things aren’t possible.'" You do not win votes by offering to lead people a yard forward. You win votes by promising to carry them for miles. Barack Obama knew enough to promise he would change the American political system as we know it, even if he ultimately failed. Donald Trump knew enough to promise he'd blow up the system, even if, in the end, he just shook it down for its lunch money. No Democrat will lose for being too ambitious. They'll lose for lacking the courage and the vision to tackle the monumental challenges of our age.
You Might Also Like