Now that I’ve told the Democrats where to campaign during the 2020 presidential election, I might as well tell them what issues to run on, too. Kinda nervy, considering I’m not a member of the party. But then, neither is Bernie Sanders, and he’s running for president. I do have some modesty.
Although it may be enough that the Democrat run as Not-Trump, for the good of the nation he or she should also stand for something affirmative. The platform needs to appeal to the progressive and moderate wings of the party, to independents, and even to principled conservatives, yet not come off like a doctoral thesis or a Christmas list for interest groups. That means a few, broadly popular themes. So from my perspective, the Democratic candidate should say “these are the six things I will focus on and work like mad to make happen.”
- The Green New Deal. Introduced as House Resolution 109 in February by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the GND maps out a plan for mitigating climate change while reducing economic inequality, the two most important issues facing the country — and the world. Contrary to what Trump wants you to believe, it’s popular. A recent Marist poll found 63% support for it.
- Tax the One Percent. This also addresses income inequality, especially if the revenue is used for social programs that aid the less fortunate. It received 62% support in the Marist poll. Both Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren have good ideas for a wealth tax. The candidate should advocate either — or both! — along with a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage.
- Health Care. Running on this issue helped the Democrats in 2018 and should help again in 2020. The country isn’t ready for a single-payer or Medicare-for-All plan, so Joe Biden has the right idea: build on Obamacare by adding a public option. That way the portion of the populace happy with private health care can keep it. Marist says this approach enjoys 70% popularity. Regulating drug prices is popular too; even Republicans give it 52% support.
- Strengthen Democracy. Any patriotic American who heard Special Counsel Robert Mueller tell Congress last week that the Russians are sabotaging the 2020 election “as we sit here” knows the federal government needs to take immediate steps to protect the democratic process. (No, I don’t consider Mitch McConnell a patriotic American.) Such steps should be incorporated into legislation that also makes it easier to vote, regulates campaign contributions as much as the Citizens United decision will allow, and eliminates — or at least reduces — gerrymandering of Congressional districts.
- Background Checks for Gun Purchases. A no-brainer; supported by 89% of the public according to Marist.
- Ease Up On (But Do Not Decriminalize) Illegal Immigration. This needs addressing only because Trump rides it so hard; a dispassionate risk assessment ranks illegal immigration as a knife compared to climate change’s atom bomb. Most Americans are appalled by the Trump Administration’s border cruelty. But according to Marist, even a plurality of Democrats oppose decriminalizing illegal entry. Treating illegal border crossers humanely and giving illegal immigrants already here a path to citizenship are political winners. But decriminalizing illegal immigration and abolishing ICE are political losers — and going too far in voters’ eyes risks making Trump appear more reasonable on this highly emotionalized issue.
And that’s it! Promoting these six priorities and not over-promising (as well as acknowledging that the final version of any legislation will depend on a process likely to include a Republican Senate) should give everyone from the center to the left — including swing voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — a positive reason to prefer the Democratic candidate.