Steve Bullock, John Delaney, and Tim Ryan have two things in common.
Of all the Democratic presidential candidates, they alone oppose providing government-funded health care to illegal immigrants. They also stand virtually no chance of winning the Democratic primary election.
There's plenty of space in which to disagree on issues. The problem is that Democratic candidates aren't using that space at all. With only a few rather insignificant exceptions, they're all huddled together in the furthest left corner of the stage.
Prudence Versus IdeologyPrudence is a rare virtue. Neither political party has a monopoly on it.
Aristotle described prudence as the preeminent virtue of the statesman, the most important quality one should look for in a political leader. Prudence is a kind of practical judgment, but it means much more than mere cunning.
The prudent statesman always bears in mind the end of human flourishing, but he also keeps his attention on the prevailing circumstances. He exercises prudence to bring about as much flourishing as he can given those circumstances.
Not so the ideologue. He's the devotee of an overarching idea, circumstances be damned. An ideology is an attempt to reduce all of the complex questions in political life to a simple theory.
The hardened libertarian, for example, doesn't consider circumstances on the question of free trade: Free trade is always the right policy. So also with the ardent socialist: Economies must always be planned.
Ideological Thinking in Democratic PartyThe Democratic Party in general, and the 2020 presidential candidates in particular, have been drifting away from prudence toward ideology in several revealing ways. Consider, for example, their stances on immigration, abortion, and universal health care.
On the first night of the Democratic debate, Julián Castro challenged Beto O’Rourke and the whole party to make illegal immigration a civil, not a criminal, offense. Illegal immigration, in other words, isn't really an offense against American sovereignty but merely an offense against our sensibility and preference for order, like a parking violation.
In truth, this position is basically a policy of open borders. It doesn't countenance the rights of Americans nor does it allow for circumstances ever to justify questioning the right that immigrants have to enter our country. Open borders is a moral necessity.
Although Democrats would retort that Republican legislatures are passing equally extreme laws to limit abortion, the former refuse to acknowledge new circumstances, such as the advances in medical science that increasingly improve the viability of a fetus. They follow the dictates of the ideology that a woman’s “right to choose” must never be questioned in any circumstances.
Finally, health care is also an issue that no longer requires hard thinking. The loudest voices in the Democratic Party now proclaim that “Medicare for All” is a moral requirement. The only disagreement seems to be about whether people should still be allowed to keep their private insurance.
Like with immigration and abortion, there's nothing else to consider with health care; it must be offered in full to everyone. Should the populations of the whole world climb over our border, they would have a right to health care, and American citizens would have an unquestioning duty to provide it.
Two effects will likely follow this drift away from prudence toward ideology in the Democratic Party, the least of which is that it will likely lose them the 2020 election.
The further that Democratic presidential candidates continue down the road toward ideology and away from prudence, the further they'll push the political conversation as a whole away from an honest consideration of the common good.