President Trump is deeply unpopular. According to RealClearPolitics, his favorability ratings now stand at just 41 percent -- near-historic lows. This means that Democrats have the upper hand heading into 2020. All they have to do is not be radically insane.
And they just can't do it.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., the media darling of the moment, stated on a CNN town hall this week that she wants to fully abolish private health insurance, ban all semi-automatic weapons and rid the American economy of carbon emissions within a decade.
None of these positions are popular. Americans are interested in the idea of Medicare-for-All so long as there are no costs. The minute they're told that there may be delays in receiving care, as there are in nearly all countries with socialized medicine, support plummets to just 26 percent, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Only 37 percent support Medicare-for-All if it means merely raising taxes. How about banning all semi-automatic weapons? As of October, 57 percent of Americans opposed banning semi-automatics. And when it comes to abolishing private cars -- which would essentially be necessary to achieve the goals of the so-called Green New Deal -- that proposal wouldn't even chart.
Yet the Democratic primaries will require nearly every Democrat to embrace each of these positions. That's probably why Democrats are quaking in their boots at the possibility of a third-party run by former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Schultz has declared nationalized health care an impossibility; he has talked about the dangers of our massive national debt; he has opposed a 70 percent income tax rate. "I respect the Democratic Party," Schultz told CNBC this week. "I no longer feel affiliated because I don't know their views represent the majority of Americans."
Now, Schultz may be a boring billionaire, but at least he isn't pushing proposals so loony they alienate vast swaths of the American public. Democrats want to have it both ways: They want to push radical leftist policy, but they don't want the blowback such policies entail. They want to pretend that radical leftism is popular even as they implicitly acknowledge the fact that it's not all that popular.
Hence New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg's fulminating over Schultz's candidacy. She writes, "this frustrated executive's politics aren't widely shared by people who haven't been to Davos." Trump's riding in the low 40s. Democrats shouldn't have to sweat out fringe candidacies. Yet that's what they're doing, because they know they've pushed too far to the left.
There's an easy answer to the Schultz conundrum for Democrats: Stop embracing the radical id of your own base. But that would involve recognizing that Trump's unpopularity isn't equivalent to support for radicalism. And Democrats will never acknowledge it -- not as long as the hope remains that Trump's unpopularity will translate into extreme leftist policy, the likes of which the republic has rarely seen.