There has never been a worse time to be a Democratic candidate for president. Never before in the history of the party have there been as many loose cannons vying the Big Prize, nor has there been a period when candidates were forced to run a gauntlet of so many radical ideas bounced off them by fellow candidates or the party as a whole. The result is embarrassing flip-flops by individual candidates, sometimes in the space of 24 hours.
Take former California Attorney General Kamala Harris (please!). On Monday at a CNN town hall, Harris was asked to react to fellow Sen. Bernie Sanders’s idiotic suggestion that the right to vote be extended not only to convicted felons but to those who had committed unspeakably heinous crimes, like Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
At a time when the adage about the squeaky wheel and the grease was never more true, Harris jumped in with both feet, delivering a lengthy discourse on democracy and equality that ended with her full-throated support for Sanders’s proposal. Less that 24 hours later, she walked it back.
Democrat presidential candidate Kamala Harris changes her tune about letting convicted terrorists vote in U.S. elections less than 24 hours after being asked about it during a CNN town hall. pic.twitter.com/XMqeVNkgUm
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) April 24, 2019
One might suppose this sudden flip-flop casts Harris in a bad light, but the entire Democratic field of twenty is bombarded daily with dopey ideas that themselves often originate with an impulse. In February a reporter with MSNBC interviewing Beto O’Rourke about his antipathy to Trump’s border wall asked whether he would tear down existing walls on the southern border. Without hesitation O’Rourke, replied “Yes. Absolutely.”
Three days later New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was asked the same question. Her answer was more measured, but it wasn’t the “no” that sanity would dictate.
In an article in USA Today on the Democratic candidates’ constant flip-flops, Gillibrand is cited as quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.” But Democrats today aren’t responding to what’s in their hearts but to someone else’s spleen. A number of the ideas now being bandied about on the Democratic side — reparations, packing the Supreme Court, ending the Electoral College — have been perennial losers in election cycles past. Yet, with the Democratic Party listing ever more to port, candidates feel impelled to say “yes” at the risk of reversing themselves and looking foolish later.