September, when the threshold for debate qualification goes to 2 percent in polling and 130,000 donors, cannot come soon enough. It's only when the field is culled and obviously nonviable candidates leave the race (or at least are excluded from the stage) that we can get into some level of detail with those candidates who remain.
And by the way, if there are more than 10 Democrats, the top contenders should appear together; they need to compete against one another, not against someone with negligible support in the polls.
All candidates need to be pressed on what happens to their progressive plans when they don't have a Senate majority or a compliant, progressive House. No ducking. Candidates, you cannot get what you have proposed. So what then?
Other things we should hear:
• Candidates who propose growing the Supreme Court, imposing term limits or rotating justices off the high court and onto circuit courts need to explain just how that is going to work.
• A number of independent economists believe Warren's wealth tax is unable to generate the revenue she needs for her schemes. Lawrence Summers and Natasha Sarin write for The Washington Post that her wealth tax is more likely to generate in the neighborhood of $25 billion annually, not $187 billion. Let's say it's $50 billion. Sen. Warren, what then? Do you eliminate some plans or start raising taxes on a great many non-billionaires?
• Almost every Democrat wants to get rid of Citizens United. How?
• How do they end "forever wars"?
• What, specifically, was wrong with the North American Free Trade Agreement (if the candidate opposed it) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and how should these and other trade deals be fixed?
Candidates don't want to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. They want to expand or reinvent the Affordable Care Act, spend a few trillion dollars on conversion to a green energy economy and on infrastructure but not raise taxes on the middle class. Please show us your math, candidates.Please tell us your priorities, candidates.
• How do they plan on addressing police violence that has resulted in the deaths of so many young African American men? Do they pursue consent decrees that require Justice Department or court supervision?
• How do we integrate schools?
• What are some of the reforms needed to repair the weaknesses in our constitutional system that the Trump presidency revealed? What limits would you impose on your own presidency, and would you, for example, retract the Office of Legal Counsel memo barring indictment of a sitting president?
We are beginning to see which are the serious contenders. We know a few (or in some cases, many) of the things these candidates want to do. Soon we need to find out how they are going to accomplish their goals. Simply because virtually any of them would be superior to President Trump doesn't mean their ideas shouldn't be scrutinized.
The last thing Democrats want is to nominate someone who struggles to explain and defend her positions or who gives the Republicans easy avenues of attack.
And let's not forget, it is not merely necessary to beat Trump; the candidate has to be able to govern if she wins. We want to see how flexible and realistic the potential nominees are; how they plan to wield federal power; how they balance spending, debt and taxes; and how they intend to lead on the world stage. We want to see whether their agendas are grounded in reality or are largely symbolic.
And we want to know whether they care about restoring constitutional norms or just exploiting the tactics Trump used. The answers should be illuminating. The questions are essential.
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