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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Democrats gearing up for a White House race in 2020 (reports say there will be two dozen or more) are sprinting to the left at such a clip that it’s now starting to make Hillary Clinton look like Ronald Reagan.

The newest candidate in the field — already being embraced by liberal CNN, which gave her an hour long “town hall” this week — is Sen. Kamala D. Harris, and hoo boy, is she a doozy.


Ms. Harris is backing every radical idea out there, joining forces with the likes of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont on some of them. Like the other two 2020 hopefuls, Ms. Harris is pushing free college tuition for everyone ($50 billion to $75 billion a year) and “Medicare for All” (which comes with a whopping $32 trillion price tag over 10 years).

Yet Ms. Harris isn’t stopping there. She wants to “eliminate” private health insurance altogether, giving full control to the government (yes, the same government that couldn’t conduct a “cash for clunkers” program during President Obama’s time in office). The California Democrat also backs Democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” ($49 trillion over 10 years) which would do away with natural gas and coal over 10 years and ban gasoline-powered vehicles.

But wait, there’s more. The first-term senator wants to slash the military budget in half and enact a full ban on semi-automatic weapons. And still more: She wants to just flat-out give away taxpayer cash. Last October, as she geared up for her White House run, she announced a plan by which families making less than $100,000 a year could receive up to $500 a month, or $6,000 a year, and individuals making less than $50,000 could get $250 a month (estimated cost: $500 billion a year).

Meanwhile, Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, wants to establish “opportunity accounts” to give lower-income children up to $50,000 to use for a down payment on a house or college tuition. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is running in 2020, of New York backs a “guaranteed jobs programs” run by (you guessed it) the federal government. And Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has also called for a top tax rate of 70 percent, which has drawn some support from others in the party.

But here’s the problem for Democrats as they try to out-left each other: Democratic voters aren’t too keen on socialism. “An overwhelming majority of respondents, 76 percent, said they would not vote for a ‘socialist’ political candidate, while only 24 percent of those polled said they would,” finds a July Hill.TV/HarrisX American Barometer poll.

Still, we’re in the “silly season,” when potential candidates say whatever they think will get them through the primaries. But while socialist ideas have always existed in the Democratic Party, they are now moving from the fringe to the mainstream, and it seems as if any candidate who wants to play in 2020 has to outdo everyone else with the amount of free stuff they plan to give away.

Which makes the latest potential candidate fascinating. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who says he’s a lifelong Democrat, is mulling a run — but as an independent. “I no longer feel affiliated because I don’t know their views represent the majority of Americans. I don’t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America,” Mr. Schultz said Monday. “It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left,” Mr. Schultz told CNBC last June. “I ask myself, ‘How are we going to pay for all these things?’ in terms of things like single-payer or people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job. I don’t think that’s realistic.”

Mr. Schultz’s entry into the race might just force Democrats back to the middle, and perhaps even pull President Trump that way, too. He may not win, but Mr. Schultz sure would change the 2020 race in a major way.

And maybe even leave a little cash in your wallet.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.


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