Former President Barack Obama cautioned on Friday that candidates running in the 2020 race pay attention “to where voters actually are,” and suggested that many Americans could be turned off by policy proposals that are too bold.
“This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement,” he said. “They like seeing things improved, but the average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it’s important for us not to lose sight of that.”
However, Mr. Obama also praised Democrats who offer bold ideas, noting that social programs in the United States have started “modestly” and then were built upon.
“I want proposals that are bolder with respect to reducing inequality and giving people more opportunity and allowing us to make more investments in our infrastructure and our education systems and others,” Mr. Obama said.
“Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality and the fact that voters, including the Democratic voters and certainly persuadable independents or even moderate Republicans, are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds. Or the activist wing of our party,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s not a criticism to the activist wing. Their job is to poke and prod and test and inspire and motivate. But the candidate’s job, whoever it ends up being, is to get elected.”
Mr. Obama did not name any candidates in his remarks, which he made in an interview with former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams at an event with Democratic donors in Washington D.C. But he mentioned issues including immigration and health care.
His comments came hours after 2020 candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced her plan to “fight to pass legislation that would complete the transition to full Medicare for All” by her third year in office. Warren’s “Medicare for All” plan calls for eliminating private insurance and would completely overhaul the health care system.
Bernie Sanders has also called for a complete health care overhaul with his “Medicare for All” plan, which also would eliminate private insurance and would require raising taxes.
Several Democratic candidates, including Mr. Obama’s former vice president, Joe Biden, have advocated for building upon the Affordable Care Act – signed into law by Mr. Obama – by adding a public option.
Mr. Obama said in his interview with Abrams that Democratic donors should not be afraid of “robust” primaries.
“For those who get stressed about robust primaries, I just have to remind you that I had a very robust primary,” Mr. Obama said. “And I actually think it makes you a better candidate ultimately.”