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Dear Moderates, Progressive Democrats Are Not the Problem

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There is one, and I’ll argue only one, thing that Thomas Friedman gets right in his latest New York Times column “Trump’s Going To Get Re-Elected, Isn’t He?”—and that one thing is the fact that people are asking that question a lot. The fear is palpable. The fear is real that somehow the Democratic party will fail to the meet the unique danger posed by the incumbent president. 

Fear can be a powerful motivator, but fear also causes people to make bad arguments and promote silly things. Thomas Friedman is afraid, and it shows. His prescription for the Democrats to confront the danger of Donald Trump is well-meaning inanity, the kind you find in a squirrel who hears a hawk and runs around in a circle because it can’t remember where the tree is.

The particular hawk that seems to have set Friedman off this time was the first round of Democratic debates. Friedman watched them and did not like what he saw. He was “shocked.” No really, he used the word “shocked” five times to describe the ideas he heard from Democrats, which is an interesting word choice considering Donald Trump is the President of the United States. Maybe he expected Democrats to offer the same kind of fiscally conservative, socially moderate, wildly unpopular policies that served Jeb! so very well against Trump?

From Friedman:

“Dear Democrats: This is not complicated! Just nominate a decent, sane person, one committed to reunifying the country and creating more good jobs, a person who can gain the support of the independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women who abandoned Donald Trump in the midterms and thus swung the House of Representatives to the Democrats and could do the same for the presidency. And that candidate can win!

But please, spare me the revolution! It can wait.”

This poor man has it so twisted around that he’s decided it’s the Democrats who are threatening to nominate somebody indecent and insane. 

Friedman runs around howling like this for a while—calling Democratic contenders who support policies like busing and Medicare for All “extreme”—before he finally finds his tree. He finds aid and comfort in the same kind of neoliberal, technocratic, “growing the pie” clichés he has been selling since the Clinton years. He determines that’s what the Democrats need and, instead of promoting any of approximately 5,427 Democrats actually running for President, Friedman drafts Gina Raimondo, the Governor of Rhode Island, off the bench. He praises Raimondo’s abilities to fend off primary opponents farther to her left, which I’m sure was a super hard task in a state with less than half the population of Queens that is also 81 percent white. 

From independents like Friedman to actual Republicans like Bret Stephens and David Brooks, it has become fashionable to criticize liberals for being liberal. How dare progressives advocate for the progressive policies that stand in opposition to Trump’s policies, when the most important thing is beating Trump? Their argument is that white voters (they’ve all but stopped trying to hide their feelings that white voters are the only voters worth caring about) will end up voting for Donald Trump if they have to choose between Trump or progressive policies they don’t like. 

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