Graphic By Alexis Cormier
As the Democratic primaries approach, Democratic candidates have once again neglected to represent the moderate viewpoint. The majority of Democratic candidates have campaigned to appeal to voters on the extreme left — from Vermont senator Bernie Sanders running on a socialist platform, to Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren promising to cancel some student debt on her first day of presidency — the moderate voter cannot find a candidate to support without turning to Mike Bloomberg or Amy Klobuchar, both of whom are each polling at less than 10%.
In 2019, a Gallup poll found that 35% of Americans identified as moderate. Rarely does the presidency appeal to this portion of Americans. President Trump’s policies on border security, environmentalism and defense certainly don’t console the moderate American. Trump campaigned on a far-right platform going as far as even boasting on his campaign website that he “signed an Executive Order to expand offshore oil and gas drilling and open more leases to develop offshore drilling,” appealing to far-right anti-environmentalist sentiments.
In the current primary election, the Democratic candidates make similar appeals to the far edges of their voter base. Bernie Sanders has made promises to “cancel all student loan debt” and “eliminate all … past due medical debt.” These solutions, though addressing significant problems in American life, raise questions for moderate voters. During his 2016 campaign, critics of Sanders called him an “idealist” and claimed his revolutionary ideas would never work in an a “democracy of incremental change.”
When asked about Sanders and Warren’s health-care plans, John Holahan a health-care policy expert from Urban Institute, said “Even though high-income people are going to pay a lot more, this has to hit the middle class.”
These critiques and concerns hold weight. As Warren and Sanders continue on the campaign trail, they aim their propositions at left-leaning idealists. By failing to consider congressional opposition and economic complications that come along with their ideas, the candidates alienate moderate voters and leave them scrambling to find someone worthy of their support.
Consequently, this strategy endangers the Democratic Party. Political writer John Avignone said, “ideological purity in a democratic society has been the road to ruin of every political movement and every political party that has tried it.” If the candidates could incorporate moderate concerns into their campaign promises they would make both their policies and their campaigns more successful. The Democratic Party would invite moderates into the political discussion from which they have been alienated and made their policies more appealing to a divided Congress.
Although the Democratic nominee will likely be less extreme in the general election, moderate thinking would still help in the primaries, particularly in states with open elections. The candidates should consider less liberal voters that don’t want to give their vote to Donald Trump.
Because he does not take extreme views, Joe Biden seems like a good option for the moderate voter, although his inconsistent political record may raise concerns. Though he claims to have, “the most progressive record of anybody running,” he supported NAFTA and voted for the Iraq War. However, Biden may be enough to keep voters from Trump.
Ultimately, even in the primary elections, the Democratic candidates must consider moderate voters when creating their platforms. They should respond to the moderate desire to see practical plans that will pass through a partisan congress and produce gradual change and maintain economic and social stability. If the candidates promise too radical of solutions they risk losing moderate voters to President Trump in the general election.
Emily Anderson is an Opinion Staff Writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.