Apparently, getting viscerally humiliated in his second failed attempt to remove Nancy Pelosi as leader of the House Democrats wasn’t enough to humble conservative Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton. Now, according to media reports every other month and a new profile in The Atlantic, Moulton is seriously considering a run for president on John Kerry’s 2004 platform.
“I think Donald Trump is a lot harder to beat than most Democrats think,” Moulton told the Atlantic. “But I’m also quietly confident that I can beat him, and I don’t think it’ll be the hardest thing that I do in my life.” It’s not exactly “quiet confidence” if you’re blabbing it to a national reporter, my man.
According to the Atlantic story, Moulton’s genius idea for taking on Trump is a vague focus on “national security.” What does that mean? Per the Atlantic:
He started with a speech at the Brookings Institution, using the D.C. think tank as a forum to lay out his national-security ideas as policy rather than politics, although stirring up 2020 talk among serious-minded Democrats was the point.
“It’s time to completely reimagine our arms, our alliances, and our arms control for this new and rapidly changing world,” Moulton said, making his case to me. Moulton sees Trump’s terrible national-security record as an opportunity that Democrats need to take to completely change up their own ossified conventional wisdom. Don’t pull out of NATO, and don’t use every chance to destroy relationships with European leaders, Moulton said, but rethink how best to engage with NATO. He doesn’t think Trump deserves any credit for shaking things up with NATO and America’s European allies.
If this sounds like the standard Democratic orthodoxy on foreign policy for decades, that’s because it is. There’s little daylight between Moulton and Joe Biden (who voted for the Iraq War, and whom Moulton said he “loves” in 2017) except for their age. According to The Atlantic, Moulton believes that “the time has come for the generation that fought the wars to take over from the generation that started them.” Not exactly sure that the biggest problem anti-war Democrats and independents have with endless wars is the age of the president waging them.
Because this is Moulton, the profile wouldn’t be complete without some clear shots to his left. In the interview, Moulton takes a swing at the Green New Deal and its proponents on the left, comparing wanting a hospitable climate to Trump’s “message of division”:
“Candidates are running on a message of division, just like Trump did. It’s not as bad. It’s not as immoral. But I hear divisiveness in a lot of the other campaigns,” he said. To him, that includes the Green New Deal—he supports an aggressive approach to climate change, but he thinks a collection of estimates and aspirations only hurts the cause. Moulton said he’s working on a version of his own, drawn more deeply from conversations with experts.
“I think we want to be careful that we don’t become hypocrites and start ignoring science, just like the right has been doing,” he said.
The science is more than clear. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in October found that if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t slashed by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, the Earth’s atmosphere could hit 2 degrees (Celcius) of warming. The difference between 1.5 degrees of warming and 2 degrees is the difference between mass coral reef die-off and their flat out extinction, between 350 million and over 400 million fighting for scarcity of water, between an estimated 14 percent of the world’s population and over a third of the world’s population experiencing extreme heat, and up to 11 million more people vulnerable to rising sea levels.
The Green New Deal is so far the most ambitious plan to deal with the primary existential threat to the existence of humanity. So naturally, Moulton concern trolls about how advocates for that plan might, similarly to actual climate deniers, “ignore science.”
Like nearly everything else Moulton has done so far in his congressional career, it’s hard not to view this effort as doomed from the start. Moulton’s core criticism of the Democratic establishment is that it isn’t enough like the Democratic establishment of the 1990s, a time which few (if any) Democrats actually want to return to. And while a Moulton run for presidency might excite Third Way boners, it’s not even entirely clear that he’s going to make it to another term in the House: a former Massachusetts state senator began publicly floating the idea of a primary challenge to Moulton after his spat with Pelosi last year. (The first came in 2016.)
Moulton may be a relatively young man, but he has the politics of a dinosaur and the political instincts of the dodo. The Democratic primary base is just one more room he’s physically incapable of reading.