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It was inspiring to see the six powerful and successful women who took the stage during the two Democratic presidential debates this week in Detroit. 

Yet their message to voters — especially women voters — wasn’t inspiring at all. 

To beat President Donald Trump, Democrats will need to pull moderates and independents to their side — and even some disenchanted Republican women. 

What I heard from these candidates should scare off anyone close to the middle of the political spectrum.

Clearly, the women running for president know firsthand what it takes to get ahead in life — they’ve built enviable careers through harnessing their talents and hard work.

What they are selling to millions of women in this country is far different. They are saying that success now depends on what the government — a much bigger government, under their progressive visions — can do for you. 

“It’s insulting, frankly,” says Patrice Onwuka, senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum, which educates women about free-market policies. 

The Democratic messaging to women is mirroring the “soft bigotry the left peddles to the black community,” that government handouts and intervention are the ticket to a better life, observes Onwuka (who is black).

“There is no middle ground anymore on the left,” she says. “Even President Obama’s policies are off-limits now.” 

In Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s closing statement Tuesday, she said: “For me, what this election is all about is opportunity. Every budget, every policy that we talk about is about who's going to get opportunity. Is it going to go to the billionaires? Or is it going to go to our kids?”

That gets to the heart of what the 2020 election is going to be about. Is more government the answer to greater opportunity? Or should government get out of the way? 

Opportunity for Americans is a fine goal, but the Democratic candidates believe that this opportunity should be created by the government in a set of sweeping policies: Medicare for All (stripping private insurance), free college, de facto open borders, enforced equal pay, paid leave, a $15 minimum wage. 

Many of these ideas could backfire on the people they’re intended to help. 

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been an outspoken proponent of mandated paid leave and additional equal pay mandates, said this Wednesday: “I think we have to have a broader conversation about whether we value women and whether we want to make sure women have every opportunity in the workplace.”

California Sen. Kamala Harris, said in regard to equal pay, “I’m done with this conversation.”

More: Jacques: Pay gap exists, but it's smaller than you think

And even though the candidates spouted the statistic that women earn about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, they ignore the factors that play into that statistic. Women choose different careers and choose jobs with additional flexibility so they can balance work and family. When you look at men and women doing the same work in the same fields, the gap nearly closes. 

More government involvement could serve to limit women’s choices. 

Similarly, Democrats in the House recently passed the Raise the Wage bill to hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Yet studies in cities that have already raised their wages have shown that a higher minimum wage directly leads to workers getting fewer hours — or jobs disappearing altogether. This month Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had to limit hours for his campaign staffers so he could pay them $15 an hour. 

The reality is women are benefiting right now from opportunities in a booming economy. Tax cuts, deregulation, limits on occupational licensing — these are the factors that are contributing to low unemployment among women and encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs. 

Onwuka says that from 2017 to 2018, women started 1,821 new businesses each day. 

Now that’s inspiring. 

ijacques@detroitnews.com 

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