DANIEL VAUGHAN: Kamala Harris and other 2020 contenders are running scared from far-left Dems

February 1, 2019

DANIEL VAUGHAN: Kamala Harris and other 2020 contenders are running scared from far-left Dems

CNN’s recent town hall with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it was yet another example of CNN putting its hand on the scale to help out the candidate it prefers. The Democratic establishment clearly favors Harris at this point, and they are trying to push other contenders out of the ring before the race starts.

But second, and most telling of all, Harris’ answer (then partial retraction) on her opinion on Medicare For All shows that Democratic presidential contenders are running scared from the far-left fringes of their party.

Harris’ concluding remark on the subject — “Let’s move on” — wasn’t just aimed at the private insurance market, but also the base of the Democratic Party. Harris is trying to give the far left a wink and nod to say: “I support your ideas, but I need to stick closer to the center to win.”

That’s why, when everyone started pointing out that “moving on” from the private insurance industry would be practically and politically disastrous, Harris quickly issued a statement saying she was open to other healthcare plans.

As Townhall columnist Guy Benson noted, the math behind Harris’ statement was staggering:

[T]he mathematical reality that paying for such a program would require increasing the annual federal budget by at least $3.2 trillion every single year. In 2018, a year in which the government ran a deficit of nearly $800 billion, Uncle Sam spent a little over $4 trillion. If single-payer healthcare had been implemented, the budget would have been roughly $7.3 trillion. To cover the resulting gap, staggering tax increases on every single American would be necessary.

Indeed, the mathematical disaster of Medicare For All is the reason Bernie Sanders has never let the Congressional Budget Office score his plan to estimate how much it would cost, or what new taxes we’d need to implement to fund it. There have been multiple independent estimates of it, including Benson’s numbers, but the Democratic Socialists pushing the plan don’t want the light of transparency shining on their projects.

And none of these numbers even take into account the horrifying reality that would commence if we enacted Medicare For All: 177 million people with private healthcare insurance would be forced off their plans and into the new Medicare.

Do you like your health plan? Too bad — Democratic Socialists will choose your plan for you.

The irony is that Democrats are now looking to repeal and replace Obamacare (and every other health care legislation they’ve ever supported).

Defending Obamacare, which they all once touted as groundbreaking legislation, is now the centrist position in the Democratic Party; replacing it with a fully socialized form of medicine is where the Democratic base has settled.

Meanwhile, more moderate Dems like Harris are taking fire from the far-left, as Michael Brendan Dougherty aptly summed up for National Review:

Progressive Democrats who are already committed to the social-democratic visions of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have been unloading on social media, spreading videos of Harris talking like a Nixonite about crime, hoping to show that she is not only at odds with the activist base of the Democratic party, but with the whole country.

Harris, in the middle of an opening week, is feeling that heat. And she, along with the rest of the Democratic field, is responding to that heat by surging left to mollify the progressive base.

In a way, Harris tactics are predictable. She needs that lane to win both the primary and the general election.

The problem is that the centrist lane that Hillary Clinton maintained throughout the 2016 primaries allowed Bernie Sanders to shift the Overton Window, or foundational beliefs, of the Democratic Party into outright socialism.

Had Clinton allowed for more competition in the 2016 primaries, Sanders may have been drowned out in the noise. But because Sanders became a popular protest vote against Clinton, it allowed the geriatric socialist to shift Democrats hard left.

The 2020 primaries are now bearing the fruit from the Clintonian iron rule of the party. Candidates who would nominally be more garden-variety liberals are now having to espouse socialist talking points to quell dissension among their base.

Of the 2020 field, on paper, Kamala Harris is probably the best candidate in the Democratic Party. But even with CNN helping her by tipping the media scales in her favor, she’s already experiencing the pain of a gaffe in her opening week.

Jake Tapper’s gentle pressing on Medicare For All wasn’t tough, but that one question for Harris was a disaster, and her rapid backpedaling will prove to be yet another disaster for her with the Democratic base.

Democrats are trying to get through the primary without descending into a full civil war. But with a presidential nomination in play, the gloves are already off for Kamala Harris — and progressives seem destined to eat their own.

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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.