All of the Democratic candidates for president are well qualified, and all of them could potentially defeat President Donald Trump, but not one of them has made a genuine effort to unite some core ideas of moderates and conservatives with progressive ideas.
For all of the talk about the centrists vs. the progressives — Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg vs. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — the reality is that none of the centrist candidates is moderate or centrist in any interesting sense of the term. If it were not for the progressives, who are basically one socialist (Mr. Sanders) and one fierce critic of the capitalist welfare state (Ms. Warren), then it would be clear that this race was between a group of liberals of one form or another.
Bill Clinton was more of a centrist, certainly compared to Mr. Biden, Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Bloomberg. Mr. Clinton’s Third Way New Democrat public philosophy included some clearly moderate or conservative ideas, including welfare reform, balancing the budget and national service. He had plenty of traditional liberal ideas too, notably major health care reform. But he really did move the Democratic Party to the center.
The centrists in the campaign today are really progressives, misnamed as centrists and the progressives are really radicals, misnamed as progressives.
There is still time for one of the Democrats to break away and speak to the millions of Democrats and independents who feel pulled in both directions, those potential voters who despise socialism and thus would not vote for Mr. Sanders or Ms. Warren.
Yet these voters are not happy with what they regard as run of the mill liberals either. They need more of a synthesis of the left and the right. They may even need some ideas that are more traditional than anything defended by the Clinton administration.
Indeed, Third Way New Democrat public philosophy may need to be deepened, not rejected or repeated.
Two policies that would shake up the voting from here concern family policy and Social Security policy. The liberals and the radicals all support paid parental leave and robust child care support. Not one of them, however, reaches out to many of those voters in the middle who would like to see a tax credit for a stay at home parent. These American parents want an option between four years of child care support and four years of a tax credit for a stay at home parent.
Bulls eye: A family policy that speaks to all young hard-working middle class American families, including those with two moms and two dads. A Democrat who would support this policy would also have honey to attract millions of moderate Republicans and independents, many of whom are women, who voted for Trump in 2016 or stayed home.
The second policy concerns Social Security. It is time for a Democrat to supplement the concept of increasing Social Security monthly payments for the least advantaged — starting with the 25% of recipients who rely on Social Security for 90% of their retirement income — with a Republican idea concerning the long term solvency of the program: push back the age eligibility by two years. We’ve pushed it back only once since 1935; it is time to push it back again.
This policy would only apply to Americans who are 20 years away from Social Security eligibility, namely those who are 47 and younger today. It could also include exceptions for workers in very physical jobs, like bricklayers, fire fighters, miners, and police officers. Moreover, early retirement with partial monthly payments would be possible at 64.
There you have it. Two policies a Democrat can support which really unite liberal and conservative values.
But each is sensitive to the moral sensibilities of those Americans who are not liberals or radicals, the tens of millions of Americans who political consultants tell Democratic candidates to ignore, especially in primaries.
If you charcoal out all of the pundit language about the polarized electorate, you will discover that Washington and the media are ten times more polarized than up to half of the electorate.
Many of these potential voters would vote for a Democrat who had the courage to support some Republican values in their broadly Democratic platform. A candidate who did support these policies could talk about uniting not just the Democratic Party but the country.
Dave Anderson (email@example.com) is editor of the book “Leveraging” and ran for Congress in Maryland’s 8th District in 2016.