When former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe ran for office the first time in 2013, he was best known for being Bill Clinton’s annoying dipshit friend and running the DNC’s failed campaign against George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. Now, a year removed from the governorship and making all of the moves that someone who wants to run for president would make, McAuliffe has a new op-ed in the Washington Post about how to beat Trump.
Rather predictably, his answer seems to be: Run the Clinton 2016 campaign again, but take more Third Way-esque potshots at the left while doing it.
At first glance, McAuliffe’s op-ed is standard politician op-ed fare—“We are now less than two years away from an election that could restore a seriousness to the White House, and the future of the American Dream depends on it,” he writes—but it’s really one big shot at his possible opponents for the Democratic nomination on the left, which already include Sen. Elizabeth Warren and very well could include Sen. Bernie Sanders, who proposed a “College for All” plan in his last campaign, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has backed a federal jobs guarantee. McAuliffe writes:
I believe the only way that Trump will win reelection is if Democrats give up their credibility as serious and focused on results that impact people’s lives. Ideological populism or relentless negativity are playing on Trump’s turf. The reality-show star will always win that race to the bottom.
What are those “unrealistic ideological promises”?
For example, some senators have started to discuss a “federal jobs guarantee” — a promise that, in certain formulations, means that anyone who wants could have a government job paying $15 an hour with great benefits. Sound too good to be true? It is. Proponents of a jobs guarantee are smart people with good motives, but they surely recognize that it is not a realistic policy.
Similarly, a promise of universal free college has an appealing ring, but it’s not a progressive prioritization of the educational needs of struggling families. We need to provide access to higher education, job training and student debt relief to families who need it. Spending limited taxpayer money on a free college education for the children of rich parents badly misses the mark for most families.
Neither of these things, although they’ve grown in prominence over the past few years, are new ideas. Aside from the obvious argument that European social democracies have already figured out how to provide the people who live there with a college education that won’t bankrupt them, how does McAuliffe think K-12 public education works? And a job guarantee isn’t new either: Democrats in both the 1940s and the 1970s made concerted efforts to pass a law establishing that a job was a guaranteed right to every American.
To McAuliffe, however, a Democrat running on either of these things in 2018 would be “dishonest populism” on the level of Trump. So what does McAuliffe propose that the ultimate Democratic nominee run on instead?
Voters are now looking for a more realistic alternative. Leading up to 2020, Democrats must maintain our credibility with a pledge of results that are honest and achievable. We can expand the Affordable Care Act and take on pharmaceutical companies’ cartel pricing, pass comprehensive climate change legislation and substantially raise incomes through minimum-wage increases and tax fairness. And that’s just the start.
These changes would be revolutionary for average families. Americans are asking us to focus on improving their lives, not to make unrealistic ideological promises.
That’s right, baby: All of the arguments Hillary Clinton made in 2016, but made by a white guy. Who, to be clear, is definitely still in “consideration” mode:
While I haven’t decided whether to be a candidate myself, I will be closely watching our side and working to ensure that the Democratic message is realistic, optimistic and focused on helping all Americans. The stakes are simply too high to lose a race to the bottom.
2020 is going to be a long two years.