- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 7, 2019

Centrists in the Democrats’ 2020 presidential field have begun to push back against their party’s leftward drift, warning that voters who would otherwise be ready to oust President Trump will be scared away by some candidates’ liberal wish lists.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden last week knocked down calls to expand the Supreme Court or to repeal the law that makes it a crime to sneak into the U.S.

Sens. Michael Bennet and Amy Klobuchar, meanwhile, say they’re not going to tear down Obamacare in favor of a fully government-sponsored health system, rejecting the “Medicare for All” plans of their left-wing colleagues.

“We need to appeal not just to our base, but also to independents and others if we’re actually going to beat Donald Trump this time, which is what is required,” Mr. Bennet, Colorado Democrat, said on CNN’s “New Day.”

The ideological tension is surfacing more and more on the campaign trail, where liberal activists are pushing to draw the field ever leftward.

Kyle Kondik, an elections analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said if the election focuses on Mr. Trump, Democrats should be in a good position. But if Democrats turn the election into a choice between their vision and his, Mr. Trump’s chances improve.

“So Trump wants to make the election a choice,” he said. “It may be that the Democrats are playing into his hands by running to the left on a wide variety of issues.”

The party’s progressive activists say that’s a false choice.

They argue former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stumbled with voters in 2016 because she wasn’t bold enough in her presidential campaign. They point to the success of liberal firebrands in the 2018 congressional elections, where Democrats ousted several longtime party stalwarts and installed younger, more liberal candidates.

Chief among those is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose Green New Deal plan to overhaul environmental policy and the social safety net has driven much of the conversation over the last six months.

Mr. Biden, while calling Ms. Ocasio-Cortez a “brilliant, bright woman,” said it was dozens of more centrist candidates in swing districts who won the House for Democrats last year.

“She won a primary,” he said. “In the general election fights, who won? Mainstream Democrats who are very progressive on social issues and very strong on education, health care.”

The party’s sprint to the left was on display at the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami when some candidates embraced abolishing private health insurance, decriminalizing illegal border crossings and allowing immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally to sign up for government-sponsored health care.

Some of those stances are risky.

The idea of replacing private health insurance with a government instituted plan runs contrary to public opinion, as does granting taxpayer-funded health care to immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally.

During last month’s kickoff Democratic primary debate, the moderators asked for a show of hands for who would support ending criminal penalties for people who sneak into the U.S.

A lone holdout was Mr. Bennet, who says Republicans will paint Democrats as the party of “open borders.” Mr. Biden’s answer during the debate was noncommittal, though since then he’s made clear he doesn’t back decriminalization.

Ms. Klobuchar, meanwhile, is questioning the liberal push for free college, saying she is concerned about paying for education for children from wealthy families.

“I am different than some of the other candidates,” Ms. Klobuchar said at a July 4 celebration. “I have not made broad promises that I don’t think I can keep.”

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