CNN’s town hall Monday evening in Manchester, New Hampshire, reinforced a trend that has been visible throughout the Democratic presidential primary race in 2020 thus far: no Democrat wants to be perceived as a “moderate” option.
Instead, every single candidate is running to the extreme left.
Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the pioneer of the “Medicare for All” idea, was always there, but he added an element of crazy when he suggested that even the Boston Marathon bomber should be allowed to vote from prison.
He set himself up for a perfect rebuke from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) — and she passed: “We should have that conversation,” the former California Attorney General said.
Harris also reiterated her support for Sanders’s “Medicare for All” policy, even after being reminded — by CNN host Don Lemon, of all people — that it meant eliminating private health insurance, including employer-based insurance. She also said that Congress should begin the process of impeaching President Donald Trump — even though he was cleared of collusion and the Department of Justice decided there was no factual basis for obstruction of justice charges.
South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg once looked like he might offer a reasonable alternative — until he started talking reparations with racist, antisemite kingmaker Al Sharpton and picking a fight over Mike Pence’s Christianity.
There is a massive gap in the Democratic primary race in the center-left, the non-crazy wing of the Democratic Party. But no one seems to be exploiting it — not even former Vice President Joe Biden, who still cannot decide when and where to launch his nascent presidential campaign.
Earlier this month, Biden bemoaned the fact that “progressive” had come to mean “socialist.” The party’s voters, he said, were not so far left. But he still rejected the label “moderate.”
There are three reasons no Democrat seems willing to run to the center. One is that they fear the party’s activists, who control the primary process and use social media to punish dissent. Sharpton and radicals like “democratic socialist” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have seized control of the agenda.
A second reason is that no one wants to play the spoiler — the role that former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, among others, tries to play in internal Republican debates. (Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) seems to be auditioning for the role in 2020.)
But a third reason may simply be that the Democratic candidates lack the talent, or the will, to represent a broader set of ideas. They feint in that direction, on occasion — such as Harris claiming she owns a gun, or Bernie talking about the need for border enforcement.
But none can, or will, do what Bill Clinton did in the 1992 Democratic primary, or what Trump did for Republicans in 2016 — namely, breaking with orthodoxy, while bringing enough of the base along.
At least, not yet.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.