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.