One need not resort to reading tea leaves to divine the Democrats’ intentions for 2020 and beyond. Party leaders have been candid about their legislative goals in the year since gaining control of the House, and presidential contenders for the Democratic nomination have publicly showcased their policy priorities. Taking a look at where the Democrats stood in 2019, it’s possible to make some projections for the new year.
Look for continued efforts to roll back border controls. Several Democratic presidential candidates endorsed reducing the penalty of entering the United States illegally to a mere misdemeanor, and without exception, every White House aspirant lined up with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in opposition to deporting illegal immigrants who are not specifically violent felons. Most of them have advocated bestowing them with taxpayer-funded health care and other “free” goodies.
Influential freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has gone so far as to call for altogether abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is tasked with immigration enforcement and countering transnational crime. Invoking Nazi Germany, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez compared ICE detention centers along the southern border to “concentration camps.” Without a major policy shift, Democratic party-supported sanctuary cities will continue to draw illegal aliens in 2020, driving up homelessness, drying up affordable housing and increasing public health and safety costs.
Efforts to curb Second Amendment rights will continue to be a focus for years to come. Playing to their base, primary contestants vied to stand out in their opposition to firearms. Former candidate and Obama-era HUD Secretary Julian Castro stated forthrightly that under his administration, “people would not own handguns.” Prior to dropping out, Beto O’Rourke said, “If we’re able to pass mandatory buybacks and I’m able to sign that into law, then I fully expect our fellow Americans to turn in their AR-15s and their AK-47s.” In Virginia, where Democrats took full control of the legislature in 2019, several counties have declared themselves to be gunowner sanctuaries in anticipation of new gun control measures. In response, Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin said, “Ultimately, I’m not the governor, but the governor may have to mobilize the National Guard to enforce the law.”
Medicare for All may be a non-starter. When 2019 began, the proposal to fold all Americans into a government-controlled single-payer health care plan polled well and was embraced by several Democratic hopefuls. But when voters find out that Medicare for All would terminate the private health insurance industry, support for it evaporates. Sen. Elizabeth Warren stumbled with primary voters when she refused to say whether her version would outlaw most private insurance by the end of her first term. Sen. Bernie Sanders admitted that his plan would eliminate jobs, which University of Massachusetts Amherst economist Robert Pollin pegged at 2 million. Mr. Sanders also estimates the cost of his Medicare for All plan to be “Somewhere between $30 and $40 trillion over a 10-year period.” Unsurprisingly, voter support for Medicare for All fell from a high of 51 percent in August 2017 to just 36 percent today, according to a Quinnipiac poll.
Democrats are committed to dismantling American energy production. On the hustings, Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren and former candidate Sen. Kamala Harris pledged to ban hydraulic fracturing, a game-changing drilling innovation that not only transformed the United States from being dependent on hostile nations for energy, but made it a net oil and gas exporter. All of the Democratic contenders favor eliminating oil gas leases on federal lands and waters, a move that would devastate the economies of the nation’s energy-rich regions. Former Vice President Joe Biden pledged, “I guarantee you. We’re going to end fossil fuel.” Mr. Sanders working with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez takes it further with their socialist Green New Deal proposal to shift the country from cheap, reliable fuel to expensive, intermittent “green” energy that would cost $93 trillion in the first 10 years alone, by one estimate, or $65,000 per household each year.
Socialism is ascending within the Democratic Party and will increasingly drive policy initiatives. The rising stars within the Democratic Party describe themselves as socialists. In fact, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez went so far as to bluntly declare, “To me, capitalism is irredeemable.” Former Colorado Governor and former presidential candidate John Hickenlooper found out just how out of step he was with the party’s direction at the California Democratic Convention, where he stated, “If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer,” and was answered with a chorus of boos and jeers.
Americans hoping for meaningful bipartisan legislation in 2020 will be disappointed. High-stakes elections together with the lingering specter of impeachment already ensure a contentious legislative year. Moreover, the increasing sway of far-left ideologists within the Democratic Party makes finding common ground a significant challenge.
• Bob Carlstrom is the chief of staff of the 2 million-member Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC).