Are Democrats Moving Dangerously to the Left?

In the New York Times today, Jonathan Martin and Sydney Ember write:

Bernie Sanders-Style Politics Are Defining 2020 Race, Unnerving Moderates

Two months into the presidential campaign, the leading Democratic contenders have largely broken with consensus-driven politics and embraced leftist ideas on health care, taxes, the environment and Middle East policy that would fundamentally alter the economy, elements of foreign policy and ultimately remake American life.

Dan Pfeiffer isn’t happy:

I get Pfeiffer’s point, but it’s incomplete. If a topic polls at, say, 55 percent support, that doesn’t automatically make it bipartisan or mainstream. Maybe it means that 100 percent of Democrats support it and only 20 percent of Republicans. I think that would probably qualify it as a “leftist” idea.

So how do the four topics mentioned in the Times article poll? This is just a rough guesstimate based on recent polls I could find that broke out partisan affiliation, but it looks something like this:¹

All of these are expressed as net support (i.e., percent support minus percent opposed). Higher taxes on the rich polls as genuinely bipartisan and mainstream. Support for Palestinians vs. Israel is polarized, but remains net negative among both parties. Medicare for All is clearly a leftist policy, as is raising taxes to end fossil fuel use.

Of these four, then, the only one that you could call truly mainstream is raising taxes on the rich. The other three are legitimately leftist. None of this is to say that Democratic presidential candidates should or shouldn’t support them, just that it’s wise to remain clear-eyed about exactly what they mean.

¹Here are the polls I used. Medicare for All: Morning Consult. Fossil fuel use: YouGov. Higher taxes on wealthy: Politico/Morning Consult. Support for Israel: Gallup.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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