Remember Barack Obama? He was the 44th president and a Democrat, and so one might think that those Democrats aspiring to be the 46th president would pay him some admiring attention. Yet in the first Democratic debate, on June 26, the ten candidates on stage for two hours mentioned him a grand total of twice. And what of Bill Clinton? The 42nd president wasn’t mentioned at all.
Then, in the second Democratic debate, on June 27, Obama was again mentioned twice, both times by his former vice president, Joe Biden. And as for Clinton, again, zero mention of him.
Isn’t that interesting: two two-term presidents almost entirely ignored. And come to think of it, not a single mention either night of Hillary Clinton.
So what’s going on? Why have the most prominent Democrats of the two generations been consigned to obscurity?
The answer, of course, is that the Democratic Party is moving way to the left, and so Obama and the Clintons are regarded as too conservative for the party’s tastes.
It was Bill Clinton who, back on January 23, 1996, proclaimed, “The era of Big Government is over.” The government stayed big, of course, and yet still, in the mind of progressive Democrats, Clinton was all-too willing to concede rhetorical ground to smaller-government Republicans.
And as for Obama, he was given to saying things like this, on November 20, 2014, about the need for border enforcement:
We’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable -– especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent.
Once again, Obama will not be remembered by conservatives, or even moderates, as a tight-border guy, and yet increasingly, any border enforcement at all is abhorred by the left. So farewell, Barack.
And as for Hillary, on October 11, 2002, then-Sen. Clinton voted “aye” on the Iraq War. (As did Biden, and he was attacked hard for that vote Thursday night.)
The point here is not to argue that the Clintons, or Obama, were conservatives. Instead, it’s that most activist Democrats think that they were conservative—at least too conservative for the newly “woke” Democratic Party.
As political science graduate student Zach Goldberg has documented, many Democrats—especially whites living in urban areas, the kind who tend to be most active in primary politics and on social media—have, in fact, moved sharply to the left. As Goldberg explains:
As woke ideology has accelerated, a growing faction of white liberals have pulled away from the average opinions held by the rest of the coalition of Democratic voters . . . The revolution in moral sentiment among this one segment of American voters has led to a cascade of consequences ranging from changes in the norms and attitudes expressed in media and popular culture, to the adoption of new political rhetoric and electoral strategies of the Democratic Party.
This new rhetoric, and these new strategies, were on full display the past two nights, as when Cory Booker said, “We do not talk enough about trans-Americans, especially African American trans-Americans.”
Julián Castro went even further: He proved that he was oh-so-woke by demanding “reproductive justice” for transgender women—the implication being that men who become women might need an abortion.
The next day, after widespread mockery, Castro clarified. Yet sill, he used that clarification as an opportunity to display his fluent vocabulary of politically correct jargon:
Last night I misspoke – it’s trans men, trans masculine, and non-binary folks who need full access to abortion and repro healthcare. And I’m grateful to ALL trans and non-binary folks for their labor in guiding me on this issue.
The New York Post captured the wokey spirit with its June 27 cover: “10 Left Feet: Dems trip over each other to be most liberal.”
That same day, Politico headlined: “Democrats lead with their left: It’s not an illusion: The party is presenting its most liberal face since the 1970s.” The 70s of course, were the decade that saw the presidential nomination of George McGovern—who lost 49 states in the 1972 general election, but remains a progressive icon—as well as the far-left presidential candidacies of Fred Harris, Shirley Chisholm, and John Lindsay.
Indeed, it was fitting that some of the sharpest moments in the second debate concerned the issue of school busing, which was hot as hell in the 1970s. School busing—putting school children on buses for as long as 60, even 90 minutes, sometimes to dangerous neighborhoods, in the name of desegregation—was profoundly unpopular, and caused the near collapse of many school systems. Mercifully, busing went away after even liberal judges came to their senses. The last Gallup poll on the topic, taken in 1999, showed that 82 percent of Americans opposed busing.
Yet on Thursday night, school busing was one of the issues that Sen. Kamala Harris used to attack Biden. As a senator from Delaware in the early 70s, Biden had opposed busing. And on Thursday night, the nation learned that in those years, Harris, as a young black schoolgirl, was herself bused. (School busing wasn’t all that popular among blacks, either, and yet now, Harris recalls it as a great idea.)
For his part, Biden, mindful of the need to placate the left wing of his party, tried to mumble around about his record, and yet he facts, nevertheless, are clear—Biden had, in fact, worked hard to stop busing. It took MSM researchers no time to uncover Biden quotes such as this, from 1975: “I oppose busing. It’s an asinine concept, the utility of which has never been proven to me.”
Once again, Biden’s anti-busing position was popular at the time—there’s a reason he won six senate terms—and yet Biden’s not in Delaware anymore. Indeed the new mood on the left is so woke that MSNBC host Chris Matthews got with the program when he asked Harris about her busing experience, “How did you come out of that and not have hatred towards white people generally?”(Harris didn’t take the bait.)
Still, one must wonder what would happen to Harris if she were actually to win the Democratic nomination and carry her retro pro-school busing message into the general election. Middle America might have to be reminded what school busing was actually like, and yet once the lesson of that disaster was re-learned, the 82-percent opposition would likely revive. Still, the general election is a long way away; for Harris, now, the name of the game is to keep hitting Biden from the left.
Yet amidst all this progressing toward Peak Progressivism, a few Democrats pointed out the obvious—that the party is at risk of going so far to the left as to go overboard.
One such cautionary figure on the first night was John Delaney, who spoke out on a different issue, “Medicare for All.” Delaney said it was “bad policy” to impose a single-payer plan to the exclusion of all private health insurance; that could lead, Delaney added, to mass closings of U.S. hospitals.
Yet Delaney went into the debate at the back of the pack, and he was even further back when it was over. In other words, for today’s Democrats, the Era of Really Big Government is just beginning. Sorry, Bill Clinton! (As Politico’s Jeff Greenfield slyly noted, Republican opposition researchers are taking careful notes, fully intending to bring up these negative data points in the general election.)
The second night was, if anything, even leftier. All ten candidates were asked if crossing the border without the legal right to do so should be de-criminalized, and all ten raised their hands in agreement. In the words of the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, “That moment was perhaps the Democratic Party’s most significant step yet toward embracing a policy of open borders.”
And oh yes, all ten of Thursday night’s Dems were also for taxpayer-funded health insurance, for for the undocumented; that’s somewhere between 11 and 22 million beneficiaries—although, of course, nobody really knows for sure how many there are.
We can observe that these new stances on immigration leave Hillary Clinton even further out in the cold; back in 2007, she took a strong position against driver’s licenses for illegal aliens.
Once again, a few brave Democratic hopefuls have taken exception to this progressive pied-piper-ing. For instance, Rep. Seth Moulton, who was excluded from the debates due to low numbers, had this to say about decriminalization:
If you cross the border illegally, then that’s illegal. I want a system that encourages them to come legally. I think that that plan would do the opposite.
And once again, Republicans are cocked and loaded. On Thursday night, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale chortled as he tweeted: “Democrats say: ‘Open Borders!’ Get here and we will let you in! So, let’s just let all 7 billion people in. That will completely work. What??”
Democrats say: “Open Borders!” Get here and we will let you in!
So, let’s just let all 7 billion people in. That will completely work. 😳
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) June 28, 2019
Of course, Parscale was already in Donald Trump’s corner. And yet tens of millions of American voters are undecided, and perhaps even hostile, toward Trump. And yet if the ’20 Democrats prove themselves to be the worse alternative, well, Trump could come out ahead by default.
Indeed, there are already indicators that the Democrats’ leftward lurch is hurting them with the middle—and even some regular Democrats. On Thursday night, Rachael Bade, a reporter for the Washington Post, was moved to tweet: “Overheard while watching the debate just now: “I’m not sure I’m a Democrat anymore.” — Democrat next to me complaining abt how far left the party has moved.”
Overheard while watching the debate just now: “I’m not sure I’m a Democrat anymore.” -Democrat next to me complaining abt how far left the party has moved
— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) June 28, 2019
Yes, Democrats just had their left-fest in Miami. And yes, the legacies of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton mostly went down the memory hole. And yet those two ex-presidents were smart enough, and moderate-seeming enough, to each win a pair of national elections. In other words, they have wisdom to offer Democrats.
Yet today’s woke Dems are hightailing it down the left lane to nowhere. And as they showed the nation in Miami, they want to drive that wayward bus even faster.