- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2019

As the Republicans of 1940 maneuvered for the chance to take on President Roosevelt, H.L. Mencken observed that the ultimate winner would no doubt be “whoever promises the most with the least probability of delivering anything.” Today’s increasingly crowded field of Democratic presidential wannabes proves that little has changed in the decades since Mencken penned those words.

Concerns about the nation’s burgeoning debt have been forgotten by Democratic politicians who decry spending $5.7 billion on border security, but are advocating plans that would cost taxpayers trillions and send the country careening toward bankruptcy. Abolishing private insurance; imposing confiscatory taxes on the wealthy that would raise little money, but would punish success; “Medicare for All”; and, a free college education are among the early promises of this year’s wannabes. As they vie for the support of the radical activists that dominate their party, each seems determined to out-promise and out-spend their rivals by endorsing or proposing unsustainable programs designed not so much to solve problems as to buy votes.

They are even signing onto the socialist Green New Deal of freshman Congresswoman and sophomoric fantasist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who would retrofit or replace every building in the country to meet her new “green” standards while outlawing all fossil fuels and nuclear energy. She dreams of the day when implementing her plan will do away with the automobile and air travel while guaranteeing everyone, including those who simply don’t want to work, a living wage.

Mencken, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would recognize these promises for what they are; empty campaign promises that may attract votes, but will thankfully never be implemented. Maybe that’s why Mrs. Pelosi was able to reassure insurance executives recently that they needn’t worry about the progressive threat to abolish private insurance. Don’t worry; her emissaries reportedly told them, it isn’t going to happen.

Those assurances couldn’t have made the progressive activists on whom she depends for votes if not money very happy because it is today de rigueur on the left to banish anyone who doubts the wisdom of these various proposals to the outer darkness. Mencken allowed that politicians fear truth-tellers because “the truth, to the overwhelming majority of mankind, is indistinguishable from a headache.” It is a migraine to today’s progressive Democrats and those who bring on such suffering are to be ignored, derided or demonized. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is considering running as a Democrat, and ex-Starbucks CEO Harold Schultz, who hints that he will run as an independent, are among formerly admired progressives who are now dismissed as party poopers.

Both are certifiable liberals, but neither is as liberal, progressive or socialist as the newly empowered left wing of the Democratic Party. They are male, white and rich, which are sins they will never overcome, but what’s more serious and damning is that each has also actually questioned the wisdom of some of these promises as preposterous or even dangerous.

Mr. Bloomberg provided hundreds of million of dollars last year to help Democrats seize control of Congress, and he is now targeted by many of those he helped elect. It’s not just that many of them have other favorites among the two dozen or so Democrats seeking a chance to run against the hated Donald Trump, but that by questioning the wisdom of the proposals some of them are advancing is giving them a headache. Mr. Bloomberg actually seems shocked by the economic ignorance of many in the new Democratic majority he helped create. Mr. Bloomberg has managed to retain his civic appreciation of the economic system that allowed him to amass a fortune and his country to remain the wealthiest in world history, but he cannot quite come to grips with the fact that the Congress he helped is either completely hostile to wealth creation or too ignorant to realize what would happen if these proposals were ever adopted.

Mr. Schultz finds himself in a similar situation. A progressive who rose from nothing to make the Starbuck’s name better known than Coca-Cola, he is as socially liberal as any of those on his case, but knows that debt, confiscatory taxes and the like would make it impossible for others to succeed as he did. That makes him a pariah within progressive ranks and some are even talking about sacrificing their lattes as part of an effort to boycott the evil market-based company he created unless he shuts up and gives up on the idea of running for president as an independent.

Messrs. Bloomberg and Schultz are learning something that others already know. The new progressives that dominate the Democratic Party are interested neither in the truth nor in a debate about the merits of their various policy proposals because they know that anyone who disagrees with them should be pushed aside and demonized rather than debated.

• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.

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