Watching the Democratic debate marathon(s) two weeks ago drove home to me just how far to the political left the Democratic Party has veered. If it keeps this up, the radical fringe that’s hijacking their party will take it right over a cliff in 2020.
But I must begin with a defense of my former colleague and longtime friend Joe Biden. I’ve made no secret of my admiration of and respect for the former vice president. While we didn’t always agree on policy matters in the U.S. Senate, and I supported both John McCain and Mitt Romney in their runs against the Obama-Biden ticket, I have always found Biden to be a model of civility and kindness. That’s what he was alluding to when he mentioned that he had found ways to work successfully with Southern senators who didn’t share his support for civil rights. To allege that Biden tolerates racism, as Sen. Kamala Harris did in her ambush of him, is simply preposterous.
Today — even when the Senate is sometimes polarized to the point of paralysis — senators often find a pathway to compromise that gets important legislation passed. A perfect example is the $4.6 billion emergency immigration relief measure that finally cleared Congress after a bipartisan group of senators stood firm for its passage. Extremists at the fringes of both parties were holding up this critical legislation even as the refugee crisis on our southern border worsened. The refugees we see crowded into U.S. border patrol shelters have suffered because of this political opportunism. Only because senators put aside political differences is aid now finally on the way.
Which leads me back to the almost surreal Democratic presidential debates. The candidates all but tripped over one another in one-upmanship on the immigration crisis. Right now we’re being flooded with thousands of Latin American refugees seeking “asylum status” under our weak immigration laws. But rather than close gaping loopholes that encourage mass migration, which is straining our border to the breaking point, most of the candidates promised to further weaken the system by eliminating all criminal penalties for illegal entry into the U.S. Instead of facing arrest, immigrants would presumably get an appearance ticket and be released. If you think we’re being overwhelmed by illegal immigrants now, just imagine what would happen if we moved to the “open borders” policy pushed by the Democratic radical left and embraced by those presidential candidates.
The sharp left turn by the party doesn’t stop with immigration. Many of the candidates have signaled that they now support Socialist-Democrat Bernie Sanders’s call for “Medicare for all.” Taken to the extreme proposed by these would-be presidents, the policy would abolish private health insurance that now covers nearly 200 million Americans and replace it with a government-run health care monopoly.
When Biden instead suggested simply expanding Obamacare to cover the 30 million Americans who currently lack health insurance, he again spoke to the need to reach for the middle ground on such a contentious issue. But in today’s Democratic Party, the Obama-Biden incremental approach to lawmaking is deemed too tame. It must be all-or-nothing for the radical left now calling the shots among Democrats.
This race to the fringe includes promises of free public college, forgiveness of $1.2 trillion in existing college loans, a massive “Green New Deal,” mandatory paid family leave, universal child care and a raft of other leftish wishes. And to pay for it all? Democratic presidential candidates claim they can cover these astronomical expenditures simply by taxing the rich. But responsible economists point out that even after soaking the “one-percenters,” taxes would have to be raised on everyone, with the bulk of the new taxes falling on middle-class taxpayers. That’s most Long Islanders.
What the radical Democratic left conveniently fails to recognize is that the American economy is now stronger than ever, and it’s producing real economic gains for those who have previously been stalled at the economic margins. Employment among minorities is at all-time highs. And wage growth is finally increasing after years of stagnation. Jobs are plentiful, the stock market is booming, and Americans are more financially secure than in years.
So why does the left insist on seeing only doom and gloom on the political horizon? Why do the Democrats push far-out new spend-and-tax programs that Americans say they neither want nor need? Why take their party — and America — over that cliff?
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.