Bob Ehrlich: There Are No "Moderate" Democratic Presidential Candidates


I have a serious problem with the media, and it is not confined to the left-wing press.

My issue concerns the repeated identification of the major Democratic candidates for president (other than Sens. Sanders and Warren) as occupiers of the “middle lane” of our politics.

This prized middle ground is where Messrs. Biden, Buttigieg and Bloomberg and Mrs. Klobuchar are alleged to live.

None of this “democratic socialist” nonsense for this crew; at times, one or more of them can even be heard speaking a few ritualistic words in defense of market capitalism or keeping one’s private health insurance. For the Democratic establishment, this lane constitutes a nominally anti-socialist haven that may house the kryptonite required to defeat the irrepressible Mr. Trump in November.

Unfortunately, this con-job of a narrative is not limited to the usual suspects. Reliably conservative outlets such as Fox News and The Wall Street Journal also employ the moderate label for this group. I have no reasonable explanation for this indulgence.

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A wake-up call is therefore in order: Lifelong liberals are not miraculously transformed into middle-of-the-roaders simply because two uber-progressives have captured a significant portion of the Democratic Party’s base.

In other words, despite the fact that most of humankind is to the right of Sanders and Warren, there still exists those who until very recently were known as “liberals.”

Not so long ago, this proud group defined the Democratic Party. Their members occupied such a large lane within the party that every one of the Democratic candidates for president going back to 1968 happily owned the moniker. It was where The Honorable Hubert Humphreys, Walter Mondales, Mike Dukakises, John Kerrys and yes, even Joe Bidens (circa 1980) lived.

On the policy front, these liberal leaders could be heard advocating for free speech on campus, due process, secure borders, assimilation, religious freedom and working-class tax cuts. Some went as far as supporting (some) abortion restrictions. Others were “pro-gun” for a time (see the early Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders).

Do you think any of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates can be described as "moderate"?

Still, this group always supported an aggressive federal role in our daily lives. Class-warfare rhetoric (the “evil” rich) was standard fare. Activist judges were their cup of tea. And there was always a call for a downsized military in exchange for increased domestic spending. (In the old vernacular, “Fewer guns, more butter.”) As a result, conservatives always had plenty to fight them about.

Now fast-forward to the progressive crisis that is 2020’s Democratic nominating process.

In this new world, all of the so-called moderates have raised their hands in support of free health care for illegal aliens, all of the moderates have called for gun registration and/or confiscation measures, all of the moderates have dismissed the concept of “religious freedom” as a mere dog whistle for homophobia and racism and all of the moderates have called for the maintenance of sanctuary cities and the elimination or reconstituting of ICE.

You might add to this list a growing number of incongruous apologies issued by the likes of Biden and Bloomberg for past policy errors. The voting public has seen this movie before. Recall Hillary Clinton’s latter-day apologies for past positions that are now deemed unacceptable to the progressive intelligentsia. Alas, that late-term conversion proved unconvincing.

Often forgotten in this race to identify heretofore liberals as moderates is the long-ignored, long-suffering conservative wing of the Democratic Party. This forlorn group, last seen on the back of milk cartons, is simply beaten down these days. Their social conservatism is no longer allowed in a party controlled by the PC police.

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That many of them may have voted for President Trump (and other Republican presidential candidates before him) appears to be of no interest to the powers that be. To be sure, those who “feel the Bern” have no interest in conducting deplorable-focused listening tours throughout the heartland!

One thing you can take to the bank, however: If the Trump campaign does its job, millions of conservative Democrats will not be confused by the supposedly heavy traffic in the middle lane.

Those vehicles will simply be AOC and her “squad” cutting them off in the slow lane in order to swerve back to the far left — where most of this crowd truly belongs.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.