My reactions to the Democratic debate

Last night, twelve Democratic candidates debated for three hours. I watched almost all of it with a bunch of Bernie Sanders supporters at a pizza parlor. My capsule reactions were that Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and Tulsi Gabbard came out of it looking more positive. Sanders and Warren refrained from attacking each other and instead emphasized their commonalities on the issues of Medicare for All and imposing very high wealth and income taxes to fight the obscene levels of inequality that exist in the US and is still growing.

O’Rourke was firm in his call for a compulsory buyback of all AK-47 and AR-15 assault weapons, but no one else seemed to support him on this, instead asking him how he would enforce it, with Buttigieg even saying that this would result in police going door-to-door demanding to inspect homes to see if there were such guns there. They ignored O’Rourke’s reasonable response that police do not go door-to-door to enforce other laws. Once you make them illegal, most people would hand them in and those who don’t would be in violation of the law and subject to confiscation and arrest if they are seen with them in public. This is how we enforce most laws.

On the question on their views of Donald Trump’s withdrawal of US troops from the Syrian region where they had been supporting the Kurds and whether they would send the troops back in, almost all of them (including Sanders and Warren) waffled. The criticized Trump for abandoning the Kurds (as if this was the first time that the US had done so) and said that people would no longer be able to trust the US’s commitment to its allies (as if the US had not cynically betrayed allies in the past). They said that US troops should eventually withdraw but in a deliberate manner while not really specifying how that might be done. Biden even went so far as to say that Trump’s move would result in ISIS coming to the US and that we would have to fight them here, the same fear mongering that was used to justify the invasion if Iraq in 2003. Gabbard was quick to point out that they were all effectively committing the US to an indefinite presence in the region in their support of regime-change wars..

As the debate went on, I found myself increasingly irritated with Pete Buttigieg. When he first entered the race, he seemed like a fresh new face with some new ideas. But he has increasingly become a scold, trying to pick holes in the plans of Warren and Sanders on their health care proposals and O’Rourke for his gun buyback program. Buttigieg was generally trying to act like Joe Biden, in the process bringing up Republican talking points. It is clear that he is seeking to challenge Kamala Harris to fill the role of centrist Democrat should Biden falter and drop out.

Cory Booker was, as always, very eloquent without saying anything that really stuck with me. Harris tried to make a big deal about the fact that she had called for Trump’s Twitter account be revoked and demanding that Warren support her on this. Her repeated demands for this made her look somewhat petty. Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, Amy Klobuchar, and Julian Castro did not make much of an impression at all, though Steyer deserves credit bringing up unasked the importance of dealing with climate change.


  1. says

    All firearms have serial numbers, and there should be records of which sellers had them. (If not, WHY?) One could then demand gun companies obtain records of how many were sold and distributed, and the sales by distributors tracked. If the seller can’t produce a buyer’s name and that serial number is traced to a crime *after* the ban, hold the seller and gun company criminally responsible, whether armed robbery or murder. That would light a fire under them.

    They ignored O’Rourke’s reasonable response that police do not go door-to-door to enforce other laws. Once you make them illegal, most people would hand them in and those who don’t would be in violation of the law and subject to confiscation and arrest if they are seen with them in public. This is how we enforce most laws.

  2. brucegee1962 says

    I can’t understand Buttigieg’s strategy. He’s a good speaker, a veteran, and a fresh face, but I wouldn’t vote for him (or Yang) because I think that a president, to be effective, needs some experience in actual government. There’s a good reason why most presidents are former governors or Senators — you need that experience not only in government, but also in running a campaign, avoiding legal pitfalls, the works. We’ve seen what happens when an amateur is put in charge, and we shouldn’t want to repeat that.

    So the way forward for Mayor Pete ought to be to get more experience. He’s young, he’ll have more chances later on. Of course statewide office in Indiana is a long shot, though, so if he thinks he’s too good for the House, his best opportunity to burnish his credentials would be as a possible Cabinet secretary under another Democrat — or maybe even the VP slot.

    But if he keeps acting like an attack dog, nobody’s going to throw him a bone. It’s just not the right time to try an end run around the Establishment.

  3. Sam N says

    @2, maybe one of the reasons Pete is tracking so moderate is precisely because he is hedging and thinking about running for an Indiana senate or congressional seat. I could see his stances and tone playing well, there. Didn’t Obama even carry Indiana in ’08? But he certainly has doused any enthusiasm I felt for a younger entry into the field.

    I’d vote for Yang, but I have an extremely soft spot for universal basic income. I contribute monthly to Warren because I think she has the best ideas (except for how to campaign, I’m sure her debate team hammered into her not to say she would raise taxes on middle class, but they probably weren’t expecting such a sustained attack by other candidates on that point, and it did make her sound unnecessarily evasive). Yes admitting you will raise taxes on people who already pay insurance premiums will be used as a talking point to the ignorant general public, but I don’t think her current strategy is doing any better. It’s a lose/lose, and I’d favor the more straightforward, and honest response, “Yes for people that currently pay insurance premiums, taxes will increase, and they no longer will pay those premiums, so they overall, they will save money at the end of the year.” And, of course, no longer be at the capricious whim of a for profit corporation once they become ill. And she’s absolutely right that the ‘medicare for those you want it’ option is actually ‘medicare for those who can afford it’, and will still leave glaring problems with American healthcare coverage.

  4. anat says

    brucegee1962 @2: Not all who are officially running for president are truly running for president. Some are trying to get exposure for certain issues, others are positioning themselves for some other position, usually with the future nominee. You may not have liked Buttigieg’s performance, but the people polled for 538 did, both in terms of assessment of his performance and increase in net favorability.

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