‘Older white men’ with ‘small ideas’: Democrats’ inner war over socialism heats up

by WorldTribune Staff, June 5, 2019

At the California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco last weekend, 2020 presidential candidates John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet and John Delaney warned against the party’s hard turn toward socialism. They were booed mercilessly by the liberal crowd.

Taking shots at “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal doesn’t play well in progressive land since those policies were embraced by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — and, of course, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who liberal filmmaker Michael Moore has declared the new leader of the Democratic Party. (Moore says he wished that AOC was old enough to run for president and that the age requirement in the Constitution should be amended so that she could.)

John Delaney, left, and John Hickenlooper were roundly booed for staking out centrist positions at the California Democratic Convention.

Neil Sroka, the communications director for the liberal group Democracy for America, described the Democratic Party’s centrists as a “group of older white men who think this is their best path to relevance in the primary.”

“Their argument hinges on a Republican view of the world that anything that is not greed-soaked exploitative capitalism must then be totalitarian communism,” Sroka said. “That’s the binary choice Republicans have decided on and all these old, irrelevant white men are doing is bending to that way of thinking because they believe it’s a path to victory for their campaigns.”

Noticeably absent from the California convention was Joe Biden, who is talking like he has been a longtime progressive champion but is seen as more of a centrist and a “safe” choice for those who have not fully embraced the socialist wing of the party.

“Some Democrats in Washington believe the only changes we can get are tweaks and nudges. If they dream at all, they dream small,” Warren said at the San Francisco event. “The time for small ideas is over.”

Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, said at the convention that Medicare for All would result in hospital bankruptcies and cost 150 million Americans access to health insurance. The progressives were outraged. Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described socialist, said Delaney should “sashay away” from the race.

But Delaney doubled down, insisting that socialism could cost Democrats the White House in 2020.

“If we put socialism on the ballot in 2020, that sounds very risky to me,” Delaney said in a June 3 phone interview with The Hill. “The lesson from 2018 is very clear. We flipped the House with moderate candidates. You can’t argue that point. The seats we flipped were with problem solvers, not with litmus test ideologues. We win when we put forth problem solvers who run in the center.”

Progressives are also furious with Hickenlooper. The former governor of Colorado said at the California convention that “if we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer.”

In an interview with The Hill directly following his speech, Hickenlooper went further, describing Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as “massive government expansions” that are adjacent to socialism and will turn off general election voters in key swing states.

“In places like Ohio and Michigan and North Carolina and Wisconsin, places we have to win to beat Trump, we’ll be starting out 10 yards behind,” Hickenlooper said.

“It’s fair game for Bennet, Delaney or any dead-ender to challenge progressives on policy, and I’d welcome that because our positions have majority support among the people,” progressive activist Jonathan Tasini said. “And then there’s Hickenlooper, who should be ostracized after embracing Republican-Trump talking points to mudsling and engage in vile red-baiting, along the way creating an ad featuring him sure to run in the general election with the tagline ‘even Democrats know socialism has taken over their party.’ ”

A recent Gallup survey found that less than half of Americans polled would consider voting for a qualified presidential candidate if that person is a socialist.

However, a different Gallup survey from 2018 found that a majority of Democrats have a positive view of socialism for the first time ever.

After Ocasio-Cortez called on him to drop out of the race for criticizing Medicare for All, Delaney accused some on the Left of trying to stifle debate.

“I’m worried that some folks in the Democratic Party are intolerant toward different views on this and don’t want a debate,” Delaney said. “That won’t serve us well … and unfortunately not enough Democrats want to step forward and say what they know to be true.”

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