Liberal Donors' Dream Agenda Taking Form in 2020 Campaigns

Harris and Warren get behind reparations in race to the far left

Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris
Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris / Getty Images
February 25, 2019

"It's 2022 and we are celebrating policy victories across the nation: Medicare for All and Free College, and next on the agenda is Reparations," read a flyer distributed at the secretive Democracy Alliance donor conference last April, outlining a dream agenda they hoped the party could embrace by 2022.

Eight months later, things appear to be moving ahead of schedule.

Both universal healthcare and free college, considered outlandish by even Democrats when Bernie Sanders proposed them in 2016, are already supported by a majority of the party's 2020 candidates.

The idea of race-based government reparations—a proposal opposed by both Sanders and former president Barack Obama—is now being embraced by 2020 frontrunners Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

Harris, asked during an interview last week whether she supports "some form of reparations for black people," said she did.

"We have to be honest that people in this country do not start from the same place or have access to the same opportunities," Harris said. "I'm serious about taking an approach that would change policies and structures and make real investments in black communities."

Not to be outpaced, Warren came out this week in favor of reparations, saying there need to be "systemic, structural changes" to address "the dark history of slavery and government-sanctioned discrimination in this country."

The New York Times says the embrace of reparations by Harris and Warren "signals just how quickly prominent Democrats have expanded their political imagination after decades of dominance by the Clintons and Mr. Obama."

Polling over the years has shown reparations to be unpopular.

A Rasmussen Reports poll last year of 1,000 likely voters found 70 percent opposed reparations to black Americans who can prove they are descended from slaves. A Marist poll conducted in 2016 found that 68 percent opposed reparations to descendants of slaves, and 72 percent opposed reparations to African Americans in general.

Neither Harris nor Warren has laid out exactly how they envision reparations being paid.

The only Democratic nominee with a plan for that is Marianne Williamson, a spiritual guru, who tells the Washington Post she would form a $100 billion government fund that would be disseminated to black Americans through a "panel of black leaders across fields."

Obama explained in an interview towards the end of his presidency that the case for reparations was easy to make as a "theoretical argument," but wouldn't be practical.

"Theoretically, you can make, obviously, a powerful argument that centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination are the primary cause for all those gaps," Obama said. "It is easy to make that theoretical argument. But as a practical matter, it is hard to think of any society in human history in which a majority population has said that as a consequence of historic wrongs, we are now going to take a big chunk of the nation's resources over a long period of time to make that right."

Sanders said in 2016 that he viewed reparations as both unrealistic and "very divisive."

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, who was the featured guest at the 2018 Democracy Alliance event where the flyer on reparations was distributed, declined to take a position on the policy, saying it wasn't discussed at the event.

Both Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez and former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe were also at the event. Neither the DNC nor McAuliffe, who is viewed as a 2020 contender, responded to requests for comment on reparations.