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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