- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The 2020 field of Democratic presidential wannabes includes candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris who want to be president because they want to be president. Others like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have deeply-held policy views they believe they can implement as the nation’s chief executive.

They are very different kinds of candidates. Those who simply want to be president because they believe they should be will say and do just about anything to achieve their goal. Mr. Biden, for example, seems willing to reverse himself on every imaginable issue to please primary voters with views different from his. Ms. Harris has tried unsuccessfully to portray herself as someone she isn’t on what should have been her strongest issue, law and order, and her campaign collapsed as voters began to increasingly regard her as inauthentic and unprincipled.

These are easily recognizable types of candidates. To be president because it was a personal hill to climb, one of President Richard Nixon’s aides once said that he was a conservative after working hours, but unhindered by his beliefs in the Oval Office. President George H.W. Bush sought the presidency not to accomplish anything specific, but “to serve,” and when that became clear after his rejection of a campaign pledge not to raise taxes, voters began to look elsewhere.

President Ronald Reagan, Sen. Barry Goldwater, Sen. George McGovern and now Sens. Sanders and Warren are quite different. These kinds of candidates actually mean what they say on the stump and will, if elected, do everything they can to deliver on their campaign promises. They run because they know exactly what they want to do in domestic and foreign policy, so voters can ill afford to ignore their promises.

When Donald Trump ran it was assumed by most that he fell into the first category driven not by any commitment to a set of values, but only by his own desire to be president. But upon winning, he began to work to actually deliver on his campaign promises. He even had a white board put up in the White House listing his promises so that they could be checked off as he delivered on them. 

This shocked the political establishment, which has always been more comfortable with presidents who realize as they are wont to put it that campaign rhetoric is one thing, but governing is quite different. The Washington Post went so far as to advise the new president editorially that now that he was president, he could and should start anew by ignoring the very promises that persuaded voters to take a chance on him.

A President Biden or Harris wouldn’t have to be advised by the establishment media that they ignore the promises and positions they had to take to win votes. They know deep in the recesses of their own minds that in making many of these promises they were “just kidding.” 

If Ms. Warren somehow makes it to the White House, however, those who are ignoring the reality of what she is promising or threatening on the campaign trail are in for a real shock. As a member of the second candidate group, she actually intends to do what she says she wants to do. This will delight her base, but come as a surprise to those who might vote for her because they don’t like the incumbent or because they assume her campaign rhetoric is just that and that, as establishment figures so often put it, she will “grow” into the job if she wins. 

That would be a mistaken assumption. Candidates like Ms. Warren who have a “plan” for everything and refuse as she has to back down even when her friends as well as her critics point out that what she proposes makes little sense have to be taken seriously. She brags that while her Medicare for All scheme may wipe out all private insurance and cost $52 trillion over the next decade, no one should worry because the hated 1 percent will pay for it. The Washington Post’s Megan McArdle ran the numbers and concluded that under her plan, the government would have to seize more than two-thirds of every billionaire’s money over the next 10 years. That, suggested Ms. McArdle, “might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system.” 

One assumes the other third of billionaire wealth will be used to finance her other schemes, though Ms. Warren denies it, she and her critics know that middle class taxpayers will actually pay for all the free stuff they are being promised.

Many are dismissing her plans as the same old campaign rhetoric they’ve been fed so often. But if she really means to destroy the electrical power and transportation industries on “day one,” double the U.S. tax burden and turn the country into one big California, they’d best be careful … Ms. Warren very likely means exactly what she says.

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

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