Slow down, Democrats. You’re risking states like North Carolina

The battle for 2020: Possible Democratic presidential candidates

Following the results of the 2018 midterm elections, we take a look at the Democrats who could run for president in the 2020 election.
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Following the results of the 2018 midterm elections, we take a look at the Democrats who could run for president in the 2020 election.
The legislative comet known as the Green New Deal burned out as expected this week in the U.S. Senate, but its death was not at all what its creators envisioned.

The bill, which was part climate change manifesto and part purity test for Democrats, died ignominiously Tuesday after being rushed to the Senate floor by Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell. The final tally: 57-0, with most Senate Democrats voting “present” rather than offering a yay or nay. Republicans, including North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, were not nearly so reticent; they climbed atop the bill’s carcass to gleefully remind voters how radical they thought it was.

It was a political victory for the GOP and a warning that moderates hope will reach the ears of national Democrats: Slow down. The left is giving Republicans the gift of messaging to consolidate its base and unsettle independents who might have swung blue in the 2018 election. That’s especially true in North Carolina, where Democrats rode a mini General Assembly wave in 2018 and are poised to give Tillis a serious Senate challenge in 2020.

That is, unless national Democrats keep lunging to the left.

It’s not just the Green New Deal with its unrealistic, unfunded climate goals and proposals to guarantee jobs, vacation and retirement security for every American. It’s Medicare for All proposals that include the elimination of private insurance. It’s calls to break up banks and tech giants and agriculture companies.

There’s a pattern here: The legislation and ideas coming from Democrats would profoundly change structures and systems across our country. Whether that kind of change is ultimately necessary — and in some cases it is — it’s not going to get done now with a Republican Senate. Proposing grand, ambitious bills will rally the left, but it also will trouble moderates who aren’t ready for the big leaps liberals want to take.

Progressives will argue that Americans do want big change, and that they signaled as much with the 2018 midterm results. But it’s part of our country’s DNA for lawmakers to overreach after elections — even wave elections — and overestimate the mandates they were given. It happened in 2010 with U.S. House Republicans who marched into office two years after Barack Obama was elected and passed a flurry of conservative bills, many targeting Obamacare, that never stood a chance in the Senate.

Certainly, voters want the people they elect to advocate for what’s right versus what it takes to get re-elected. We’re often critical of politicians like Thom Tillis who abandon principles for politics, and we appreciate smart and formidable young Democrats who recognize that climate change and health care are each a national crisis. But spending your political capital on things that won’t happen — like a Green New Deal — is a self-indulgent fist to the sky that risks unsettling the fence-sitting voters who can help you enact long-term change. Democrats don’t need the Green New Deal to win blue states, but it will jeopardize purple states like ours, and that’s not a good blueprint for change.