by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, June 30 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic Party has taken a sharp turn to the left as its contenders for the 2020 U.S. presidency are on their campaign trips. If it veers too far, the party could turn off moderate voters and hurt its chances of clinching the White House in 2020, experts said.
"The Democratic base has moved to the left and this is where the real energy is," Brookings Institution senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
Indeed, the party's leftward shift was on full display recently during the first round of Democratic debates. When the moderator asked which candidates would provide free health insurance to illegal migrants, every candidate raised their hand in a moment that grabbed headlines nationwide.
Outside the debates, candidate Pete Buttigieg has said he wants to boost the U.S. Supreme Court to 15 justices from nine - the number set 150 years ago - in a bid to chip away at conservative influence in the nation's highest court.
Self-avowed socialist candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders said recently he wanted free college tuition for all, as well as 1.6 trillion U.S. dollars to eliminate all student debt, a sum that would come from taxpayers. Sanders also said he would support reparations for decedents of slaves, a reversal of an earlier position in which he said he was against the idea.
Many of the nearly two-dozen Democratic candidates say they support "Medicare for All." Critics say that would amount to a government hijacking of the healthcare system that would result in a radical shift to low-quality healthcare, as well as increase taxes for everyone. It would also result in longer wait times and strip millions of Americans from their private health insurance. The plan comes at an astronomical price tag of 32 trillion U.S. dollars.
Indeed, there is a trend of candidates with moderate track records suddenly shifting their stance to support radical policies. But candidates have found themselves between a rock and a hard place.
"If the Democratic moderates take on progressives, they get squashed by the passionate intensity of the left. If they don't, the party moves so far left that it can't win in the fall," New York Times columnist David Brooks tweeted on Friday.
A number of the party's rising stars are also far leftists, such as 29-year-old freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has proposed the Green New Deal, an energy bill that critics pan as unrealistic and unworkable. The bill radically re-structures the nation's energy systems and economy in a way that would dramatically expand the government's role in American life, and comes with a 90 trillion U.S. dollar price tag.
"There is a risk the party will veer too far toward the left and endanger the chances of winning in 2020," West said.
Still, U.S. President Donald Trump will have to make an effort to push his own narrative, which is that far-left policies would be a disaster for the economy.
Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said: "What they are pushing should hurt them, but it's going to be largely up to Trump to make sure he drives the nail into the coffin."
West argued that Trump will "portray Democrats as socialists bent on expanding the role of government, while Democrats will point to ways government programs are needed to help the less fortunate."
The party has two front runners, Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden. It remains unclear, so early in the election cycle, who will get the nomination.
But some experts maintain that if Biden loses to Sanders, the party will turn too sharply away from the middle. During last week's Democratic debates, Biden stood out as the most moderate candidate, but was pummeled at every turn by far-leftist candidates.
Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, said that while many Democratic candidates believe they don't need to worry about moderates, they ignore them at their own political peril.
"I think Trump has led many candidates to decide they don't need to worry as much about moderation. The nominee will probably win the support of most Democrats. But ignoring moderates comes at a cost: the primary electorate is older, whiter, and less liberal than activists on social media," Galdieri said. Enditem