He blamed the Trump dysfunction on what he says is a combination of dishonesty and incompetence.
Moulton said he sees the same tendencies in some of the Democrats whom he’s hoping to tangle with on the debate stage.
“Candidates are running on a message of division, just like Trump did. It’s not as bad. It’s not as immoral. But I hear divisiveness in a lot of the other campaigns,” he said. To him, that includes the Green New Deal—he supports an aggressive approach to climate change, but he thinks a collection of estimates and aspirations only hurts the cause. Moulton said he’s working on a version of his own, drawn more deeply from conversations with experts.
“I think we want to be careful that we don’t become hypocrites and start ignoring science, just like the right has been doing,” he said.
Similar thinking informs his take on Medicare for all. He’s been receiving care from a single-payer system—at VA hospitals—and doesn’t think that’s the answer.
Last year, Moulton campaigned for Democratic veterans running for House seats. He wasn’t the only one backing them, but their victories had much more to do with Democrats retaking the majority than can be claimed by the Justice Democrats or any of the other left-leaning groups. Along the way, Moulton raised more than $7 million, more than any House Democrat outside the leadership, and built up an email list of eager fans.
Nonetheless, his reputation in Washington is defined largely by his attempt to knock out Pelosi. He began 2018 by plotting against her, and getting attacked for drawing attention to himself. The year ended with him holding out against her for speaker. Pelosi will never forgive him, and neither will many people close to her. They dismiss what he and others did as a fumbled effort that only served to dredge up anger and division. How will he run a presidential campaign, they snicker, when he couldn’t even keep a few dozen colleagues together in opposing her?
Moulton argues that getting Pelosi to agree, as a way of ending his insurgency, to term limits that would only let her serve as speaker for four more years did more to change Democratic power in Washington than can be claimed by nearly anyone else in town.
The Pelosi fight has followed him, from raucous town halls in Massachusetts to liberals around the country swearing revenge for how he’d taken on the Democratic Party’s most significant female leader. Several people have reached out to John Tierney, the congressman whom Moulton beat in the 2014 primary, asking for advice about running against Moulton, though so far the agitation has remained just talk. No one has put together money to pay for a poll to see whether the backlash has dissipated, let alone for the beginnings of an actual campaign.
Moulton said that for now, he’s not giving up his House seat to nose around on 2020, even as some of his critics in the district salivate over beating him up for ignoring his constituents to chase national politics.
“I got here via primary, and that’s part of the Democratic process, so I welcome it,” Moulton said. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Plus, he said, his stand against Pelosi is a perfect demonstration of how willing he is to take on the establishment, in a way that makes much more sense to people around the country, particularly in swing districts, than to liberals and the people in power in Washington.