Debates: Democrats’ mixed messages may divide

Published 5:23 pm Monday, August 5, 2019

The Free Press, Mankato

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The wide range of viewpoints among Democratic presidential candidates on everything from health care to foreign policy may be a necessary vetting of the best ideas, but it also may put Democrats behind in what they say is their main goal of defeating President Donald Trump.

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With 20-plus candidates in the field, the different ideas and policies are sure to create 20 different constituencies that may be difficult to unite come the general election.

To be sure, some suggestions, such as doing away with private health insurance to make way for a “Medicare for All” plan may struggle to draw popular support. That plan, pushed by prominent candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, has run into resistance from several other candidates who see it as too radical and by some views, a sure way for Democrats to lose to Trump.

Sanders and Warren are willing to push grand new ideas that may not yet have political constituencies and seem willing to stand on the boldness of their plans. They argue Democrats must be bold because all other strategies seem to have failed.

So now the Democrats have popular candidates in Sanders and Warren touting an unpopular idea. Voters will have to work hard to get their heads around that.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been the leading promoter of another tack: Be moderate, win the Midwest, with the hopeful conclusion that Trump’s defeat is assured. We favor that approach as the one most likely to resonate with most voters. Of course, Klobuchar has not been polling anywhere near the numbers of Sanders, Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Kamala Harris.

With every debate and with every challenge of ideas that are too radical, the Trump campaign gets more fodder. And Democrats, unfortunately, don’t have a messenger like Trump. They will have to win on ideas.

If voters are confused about their ideas, there will be a steep hill to climb.