Paul Krugman, whom I respect, thinks that Americans will have a real choice in 2016 between the Republicans, who represent the wealthy, and the Democrats, who represent the public interest.
I think he’s right about the Republicans, but I’m not so sure about the Democrats. Here’s what he wrote:
As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other.
The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.
For example, any Democrat would, if elected, seek to maintain the basic U.S. social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — in essentially their current form, while also preserving and extending the Affordable Care Act.
Any Republican would seek to destroy Obamacare, make deep cuts in Medicaid, and probably try to convert Medicare into a voucher system.
Any Democrat would retain the tax hikes on high-income Americans that went into effect in 2013, and possibly seek more.
Any Democrat would try to preserve the 2010 financial reform, which has recently been looking much more effective than critics suggested.
Any Republican would seek to roll it back, eliminating both consumer protection and the extra regulation applied to large, “systemically important” financial institutions.
And any Democrat would try to move forward on climate policy, through executive action if necessary, while any Republican — whether or not he is an outright climate-science denialist — would block efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Self-proclaimed centrists will look for a middle ground that doesn’t actually exist. And as a result, we’ll hear many assertions that the candidates don’t really mean what they say. There will, however, be an asymmetry in the way this supposed gap between rhetoric and real views is presented.
On one side, suppose that Ms. Clinton is indeed the Democratic nominee. If so, you can be sure that she’ll be accused, early and often, of insincerity, of not being the populist progressive she claims to be.
On the other side, suppose that the Republican nominee is a supposed moderate like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. In either case we’d be sure to hear many assertions from political pundits that the candidate doesn’t believe a lot of what he says.
But in their cases this alleged insincerity would be presented as a virtue, not a vice — sure, Mr. Bush is saying crazy things about health care and climate change, but he doesn’t really mean it, and he’d be reasonable once in office. Just like his brother.
For my part, I think skepticism about Hillary Clinton’s populism is fully justified. Her announced goal is to raise a campaign kitty of $2.5 billion. The people who pony up for that kind of money will expect something in return.
The difference between the two parties is that Democrats have a conflict between the interests of their campaign donors and the interests of their constituents, while there is no such conflict among Republicans. So while Republicans can be trusted to do everything Krugman says they will do, the same is not true of Democrats.
One of the core reasons for voting for the Democratic Party is the Republican attack on Social Security and Medicare. Yet President Obama has repeatedly tried to set the stage for scaling back Social Security and Medicare as part of a grand bargain with congressional Republicans to balance the budget.
Krugman wrote of a “middle ground that doesn’t actually exist.” He’s wrong. There is a bipartisan consensus. Unfortunately. It consists of impunity for financial crimes and war crimes, a revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, prosecution of whistle-blowers, warrant-less surveillance and perpetual war.