With an announcement on Vermont Public Radio Tuesday morning, Sen. Bernie Sanders I-Vt. entered an already crowded field of Democrats hoping to land in the White House in 2020. Bringing his signature promises of free healthcare and the free college tuition to an already promise-heavy field, Sanders also joined the competition to tell voters only what they want to hear — not what is actually possible.
The night before, however, another Democratic candidate, Amy Klobuchar, offered a dose of reality — refreshing because of its rarity.
Speaking at a town hall in New Hampshire, she refused to back free four-year college. “If I was a magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would,” she said. When pushed on the subject and asked specifically about high debt burdens facing students, she held her ground, telling host Don Lemon:“I know that, but I’ve got to tell the truth. I mean, we have this mounting debt that the Trump administration keeps getting worse and worse. I also don’t want to leave that on the shoulders of all these kids.”
That’s a remarkably candid and balanced approach to tackling a real problem of ballooning higher education costs.
And Klobuchar didn’t stop there. In the same town hall, she called the "Green New Deal" “aspirational” and characterized “Medicare For all” as something better suited to the future than a workable policy proposition in the present.
Klobuchar is right, and her fellow Democrats would do well to pay attention. Pragmatic policy might not be as flashy as grand promises of free goodies, but in the long run, Klobuchar is well on her way to differentiating herself. All she has to do is meet the low bar of being somewhat realistic.
Sanders and the Democrats who have been quick to embrace his proposals as party orthodoxy aren't "magic genies" any more than Klobuchar is. The difference is that unlike Klobuchar, they aren't ready to admit that.
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