Friday, June 28, 2019


During last night's debate, Kamala Harris confronted Joe Biden on his 1970s opposition to school busing. Also during the debate, every candidate pledged to provide health care for undocumented immigrants. (The explanation I wish someone had offered: We're having a lot of measles outbreaks in this country -- primary because some native-born citizens aren't vaccinating their children. If undocumented people are living here and measles spreads to their communities, do we not want them to seek medical care? Do we just measles to spread if it reaches those communities?)

So what's happening now? Democrats are being attacked as too friendly to Those People.

But they're also being accused of being the party of racism.

The channeling of Dinesh D'Souza seems to be confined to the Murdoch media and folks like Cotton who channel its tropes, but the scary-woke-radical line is near-universal. Here's Politico's Jeff Greenfield:
As a policy matter, [health care for the undocumented] makes sense; leaving sick people untreated is both cruel and a public health menace. As a political matter, it is an open invitation to President Trump and his campaign to brand the Democrats as a party offering “free stuff” to millions of people who broke the law to get here in the first place.
He adds:
Right now ... all of the candidates ... have put themselves clearly on the record for sharply liberalizing immigration, and none appears to be willing to say anything with any specificity about one question: Should there be any limit on who gets to come to the United States? Is there room enough, are there jobs enough, is there health care funding enough, to accommodate everyone? Right now, it seems clear that if either of the last two Democratic presidents had shown up Thursday night and advocated their positions from five or 20 years ago—the ones that helped them win a general election—they would have been booed off their own party's stage.
There's such a narrow corridor for Democrats -- Barack Obama found it, but many Democrats are declared to be too wishy-washy centrist or too radically McGovernesque. The rhetoric of Republican presidential candidates is rarely parsed this way -- for instance, Are they going too far with that talk about no abortion, even for victims of rape or incest? The media doesn't call GOP tax cuts for the rich budget-busting "free stuff."

If, say, Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris is the Democrats' 2020 nominee, it will be said that pledges made in these debates will haunt the general election campaign. But why can't they get away with having a few ideas that the public might believe are a bit much? Donald Trump horrified most of America with the things he said in 2016, and he won the presidency. But oh, right -- his opponent was unusually unpopular. Well, he's unusually unpopular now. Why doesn't the Democrat have some leeway to say risky things?

Trump got the benefit of the doubt because he was part of what the entire political world considers the Normal Party, the party of regular Americans -- surely he couldn't be too extreme. Democrats are still regarded as the Freak Party -- if they venture out of the bland center, chaos could ensue. At the national level, only Barack Obama in this century has found a way to beat this whammy. Even bland left-centrists -- Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry -- couldn't, because we were told they were beyond the pale.

It's hard out here for a Democrat.

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