After watching both of the Democratic debates, in which 10 Democratic candidates running for president each night presented their cases to the American public, I am concerned that the Democrats are losing sight of their 2020 goal.
According to a recent USA Today poll, Democratic voters’ number one concern is making Donald Trump a one-term president. This is more important to them than any one issue. And yet, this was certainly not apparent from watching the debates.
Data shows that our nation remains as divided as ever. Exit polling from the 2018 midterm elections showed that voters, by a margin of 76 percent, felt the nation was becoming even more divided. That’s not a percentage that Democrats can afford to ignore.
So what are they doing talking about wiping out private insurance or providing taxpayer-funded health care to undocumented workers? They are only appealing to far-left faction of the Democrats with that, and certainly aren’t appealing to the mass of voters. Guess who they need on their side in order to win the general election?
In the last election, it was Independents who determined the outcome. And it is those Independents who will decide again in 2020. So if Democrats can reach those voters with issues that appeal to them, they’d stand a good chance of swinging them left rather than right.
How did the Democrats win over these voters to win the majority in the House last November? If you look at the districts that voted twice for Obama but then flipped for Trump in 2016, many of those districts are hurting financially. They’ve lost their health care or they fear having it taken away. Health care is the number one issue among most voters, not just Democrats. And Democrats made health care a priority in their messages to voters in 2018.
So what did they talk about during the debate? Did they focus laser-sharp on health care as a top priority for the voters? No, they didn’t.
It was Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, who had the line of the night (both nights) when she said, “America does not want … a food fight. They want to know how we’re going to put food on their table.’ And she should have stuck with that. What she was basically saying is that voters don’t care about all the in-fighting, and she’s right. This is especially true for Independents. They want someone who can get things done.
But Harris then proceeded to be the first one to throw food (verbally) with her attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden about race, segregationists and busing. Then Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., chimed in. The Democrats fighting about race and practically calling one of their own a racist, then arguing about outdated and failed policies like busing isn’t being “progressive” – it’s acting like the guy they’re trying to unseat.
And it is exactly this infighting – and taking extreme views on issues such as immigration – that threatens to alienate the very suburban and upper-income voters that they need.
Although most voters care strongly about immigration and don’t want to see children in cages, the Democratic candidates presenting extremely progressive policies such as decriminalizing illegal entry to the United States, or providing health care to undocumented workers, diverts attention away from Trump’s harsh policies and turns it instead to what they see as bad policy from the Dems.
Such policies will not, in all likelihood, gain points with the working class voters either, those who backed Obama and then turned to Trump. And these are the voters, especially in the rust belt states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, that Democrats have the best chance of re-capturing – but only if they stay on the issues that matter most to these voters, not new and radical far-left ideas.
Universal health care, tuition-free college and a sustainable minimum wage is the way to go, as all three continue to gain in popularity – and not just among Democrats.
This upcoming presidential election in 2020 is the Democrats’ to lose if they don’t play their cards right. And those cards are the key issues that appeal to the independent voters and those who are not happy with where Donald Trump has taken the country.
Trump is the Democrats’ opponent, not each other. The Democrats running for president would be wise to remember that.
Leslie Marshall joined Fox News Channel as a contributor in 2009; providing analysis on both political and social issues from a liberal point of view. A nationally syndicated talk host, whose program, “The Leslie Marshall Show” can be heard on radio, stream, “Tune In,” “The Progressive Voices Radio Network,” and “The Armed Forces Radio Network.”