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The great Democratic gamble

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are increasingly taking far-left positions most would not have dreamed of — or dared — taking three short years ago.

Why it matters: A convergence of incentives — fundraising, cable coverage, liberal activism and social media — are inspiring Democrats to offer full-throated support of big government liberalism. The result would make Hillary Clinton and former President Obama sound like conservative Democrats in this field.

Leading 2020 Democrats now support:

  • Medicare for All: This message hits home with Americans who are experiencing higher deductibles and more expensive prescriptions, at the same time that every sector of the health care industry — insurers, drug companies, hospitals, doctors — have seen large profits, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports. And Biden has been criticized for supporting the Affordable Care Act +,  a mainstream position for Dems until very recently.
  • Trillion-dollar-plus climate plans: Sen. Bernie Sanders just introduced a Green New Deal costing $16 trillion over 15 years. Axios' Amy Harder says that supercharged activists — in part because the problem is getting more dire, and solutions like wind and solar energy are getting cheaper — are successfully pushing Democratic candidates to adopt ever-more-aggressive goals in the face of inaction at federal and global levels.
  • Lowering drug prices: The 2020 Dems' plans are much more aggressive than what the party has supported in the past.
  • Decriminalizing illegal border crossings: During the Democratic debate on June 27, all 10 candidates candidates raised their hands when asked if their health plan would cover undocumented immigrants. "[A] growing number of Democrats [including Elizabeth Warren] favor eliminating the laws that criminalize illegal entry — even as a misdemeanor," the N.Y. Times reports.
  • Erasing student debt: "In just over a decade, Democratic Party leaders have gone from advocating modest increases in Pell grants to pushing for large-scale debt cancellation," The Atlantic writes.

Between the lines: There's no true moderate at the top of the 2020 pack. Biden is being called the moderate. But on ABC's "Good Morning America" in April, he defended his earlier statement that he has "one of the most progressive records of anyone running":

  • "I was always labeled as one of the most liberal members of the United States Congress."

Go deeper: Where 2020 Dems stand on 15 key issues