Is anyone paying attention to the economic policy proposals of the nine Democratic presidential nominees? There has been so much focus on the feeble foreign policy and war on terrorism positions of the Democratic presidential wannabes that everyone seems to be ignoring their taxing and spending policies.
But an examination of the plans that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.) and the rest of the nine dwarfs have proposed reveals just how sharply leftward the Democratic Party has tilted in recent years.
Every one of the major contenders wants to raise taxes, wants to re-regulate key industries, militantly opposes private accounts for Social Security, supports the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, and would seek a much higher minimum wage.
Most would create a Hillary Health Care- type plan for the nation.
Even Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who is arguably the furthest to the right of any in this field, would raise the highest income tax rate above where it was when Bill Clinton left office.
In many ways the Democratic Party has transformed itself into an ideological replica of the Socialist parties of Europe. Another way to state this point is that the Democrats have adopted the platform of Ralph Nader’s Green Party.
Consider the economic game plan of Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean. Dean has proposed the repeal of the entire Bush tax cut. (This would raise taxes on the average middle-income family by $1,900 a year.) He wants tens of billions of dollars of new federal aid to states. He wants a federal takeover of the health care system and a socialized day care program. He wants a $7.50-per-hour minimum wage, a removal of the wage cap on Social Security taxes, and immediate approval of the anti-American Kyoto treaty. These are policies that are to the left of even what George McGovern and Michael Dukakis campaigned on.
Dean has a cultish following. I experienced this first-hand after writing a column several weeks ago attacking Dean on taxes. I was inundated with verbal assaults and even threatened with bodily harm if I continued to criticize Dean. It didn’t matter that what I had written about Dean was simply a reiteration of his own words and policy positions. My sin was to denounce the liberal messiah.
But Howard Dean is not even the most radical of the Democratic presidential field. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D.-Ill.), and the Rev. Al Sharpton together will also get a not-insignificant slice of the Democratic vote. You know things have gotten way off course when Dick Gephardt is the party’s centrist alternative.
What are we to make of this left-wing hostile take-over of the Democratic Party? And whatever happened to the New Democrats? Even the New Republic, which was once a fairly reasonable-minded left-of-center opinion magazine has been infected with the “hate-Bush” virus. Recently the New Republic published an article by one of its staff reporters who argued that “Bush’s policies are only designed to help his rich friends.”
Liberals loathe Bush with a burning and irrational rage. The recent ad on the website of the liberal group MoveOn.org, depicting President Bush as Adolf Hitler, is just one example of the venom and despicable tactics the new left will use to bring down the President. The problem for the Democrats is that this antipathy toward Bush is shared at most by only one-third of the electorate. But they are the ones who vote in Democratic primaries, which is why Dean is so well-positioned, even after two miserable weeks-starting with the capture of Saddam-to win in Iowa and then New Hampshire.
In the last 30 years only two Democrats have won the presidency, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and both were economically moderate Southern governors. Bill Clinton looks like a raging conservative compared to the current field of Democratic contenders. The New Democrat wing does not even have a horse in this race who has any chance of breaking through the left’s array of frontrunners. Only Joe Lieberman, and North Carolina’s John Edwards, even nod in the direction of the New Democratic sector of the party, and Edwards seems far too indebted to trial lawyers and unions to move the party back to the center on economics.
The left wing of the Democratic Party has made a decision that it would rather get smashed with a true-blue torchbearer for liberalism than win with a centrist.
That’s good for Republicans and President Bush, of course. The Democrats are on a collision course to nominate a candidate who will lose between 35 and 45 states in the next election to Bush. The worry is that the Democrats lurch to the left of the playing field may inspire Republicans to move to the middle and ignore conservatives, the way Richard Nixon did in the early 1970s.
Republicans don’t deserve to coast to an easy victory in 2004, but they are likely to anyway, not because of their own brilliance or policy victories (after all, in Medicare, they just gave us the biggest expansion in government in 30 years) but because the Democrats will soon very likely nominate a Northeastern liberal in Howard Dean, who may not win a single state outside the Northeast other than California.
Will the Democrats regain their senses on economics anytime soon?
The party no longer bears any resemblance to the JFK Democrats of the 1960s who embraced free trade, sound money and fiercely anti-Communist positions. In the long run, conservatives would surely be better off if the Democrats came to their senses on economics and the two parties were in agreement on growth policies. That may not happen until the Democrats are routed in the 2004 elections.
But then again, the Democrats may only move further to the left after such a defeat. After all, the biggest winner of all from a Bush blowout in November 2004 could well be one Hillary Clinton.